Impairments caused by head injury

Illustration by McKenzie Illustrations

 

National Institutes of Health  Traumatic Brain Injury  Rehabilitation Consensus Statement, October 1998.


Cerebral Cortex
Functions:
The wrinkled outer covering of the cerebrum and is nicknamed the thinking cap. The cortex wraps over and around the rest of the brain. At least 70% of the neurons in the human central nervous system are in the cortex.
The cortex is involved with:
Planning for the future
Problem Solving
Learning from experience
Anticipating, reward and punishment
Much of our experience of ourselves and our environment is gained through the cortex
Impairments caused by head injury:
Severe damage to the cortex can reduce a human to a vegetable-like state.  Mild to moderate damage can produces corresponding defects in functions it regulates such as:
Speech
Sight
Senses
The four lobes of the brain: frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital mark the boundaries of each region of the cortex.
Cerebellum
Functions:
is attached to the brain stem at the base of the skull the cerebellum or little brain processes input from muscles, joints and tendons. It controls posture, equilibrium and coordinates skilled muscular movement and balance. It is more like a brake than a motor, it regulates fine motor coordination and prevents limbs from flailing about out of control.
It is involved in:
Coordination of voluntary movement
Balance and equilibrium
Some memory for reflex motor movements
Perception, discrimination and emotional response
Impairments caused by head injury:
Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements
Loss of ability to walk
Inability to reach out and grab objects
Tremors
Dizziness (Vertigo)
Slurred Speech (Scanning Speech)
Inability to make rapid movements.
Brain Stem
Functions:
Located, deep in the brain, leads to spinal cord. Involved with:
Breathing
Heart Rate
Swallowing
Reflexes to seeing and hearing (startle Response)
Controls sweating, blood pressure, digestion, temperature (Autonomic Nervous System)
Affects Level of Alertness.
Ability to Sleep
Sense of Balance (Vestibular Function)
Impairments caused by head injury:
Decreased vital capacity in breathing, important for speech
Swallowing food and water (Dysphagia)
Difficulty with organization / perception of the environment
Problems with balance and movement
Dizziness and nausea (Vertigo)
Sleeping difficulties (Insomnia, Sleep Apnea)
Spinal Cord
Functions:
Continuation of the lower part of the Brain Stem
the brain stem is involved in:
Coordination of voluntary movement
Balance and equilibrium
Some memory for reflex motor movements
Impairments caused by head injury:
Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements
Loss of ability to walk
Inability to reach out and grab objects
Tremors
Dizziness (Vertigo)
Slurred Speech (Scanning Speech)
Inability to make rapid movements.
 Hypothalamus
Functions: Located beneath the thalamus
and laterally is continuous with the
subthalamic regions. It contains
neurosecretions which are of importance
in the control of certain metabolic activities,
such as maintenance of water balance, sugar
and fat metabolism, regulation of body
temperature, and secretion of releasing and
inhibiting hormones, it is the chief subcortical
region for the integration of sympathetic and parasympathetic activities
Impairments caused by head injury:
Water balance
Sugar and fat metabolism
Regulation of body temperature
Hormonal regulation
Excitability
The brain has many parts including the cerebral cortex, brain stem and cerebellum. The brain is a very complex organ, it regulates every aspect of human behavior. Everything about ourselves and the environment is experienced through the brain. It has been described as a three pound universe.It is thought to house the seat of the self, the place where the sense of self resides. The following represents primary brain functions and some of the common problems that result from brain injury. The brain functions as a interrelated whole, however injury may disrupt a portion of an activity that occurs in a specific part of the brain.



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