Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University for Cognitive Brain Imaging have used neural imagining to study how the human brain adapts to injury. The study was published in Cerebral Cortex and reveals that when one area suffers a brain injury, a secondary area often activates in order to take over the job of the damaged area.
How Does The Brain Recover?
According to researchers, the brain has a remarkable adaptability to trauma. The brain has the ability to rebound from such injuries, although up until now doctors have not fully understood exactly how such recovery occurs.
Researchers suggest that developing alternative thinking styles can prepare the brain for recovery from trauma. One researcher compares this exercise to a baseball player who develops different muscles in a switch-hitting style so that if he or she is injured, a new way of hitting is available to take over.
How The Study Was Conducted
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging or MRI to study 16 adults who had suffered damage to the part of the brain that was involved in language comprehension. They simulated this damage by temporarily disability the Wernicke area of the brain and giving the subjects tasks involving sentence comprehension.
Researchers then used the MRI scans to measure how brain activity altered because of the disabled portion of the brain. They found that the brain immediately engaged a “back up” series of areas to allow individuals to function normally. They found that the areas that engaged were:
- Contralateral areas—areas that were “mirrors” of the damaged brain section
- Areas next to the damaged area
- A frontal executive area of the brain
Researchers also found that damage to one area of the brain can have a negative effect on other areas. Thinking appears to be a networking function rather than the function of one isolated area of the brain. This means that while the brain can often adapt by engaging other areas, even small damages to some parts of the brain may have long-term consequences.
What Does This Research Mean for Brain Injury Victims?
While those who have suffered brain injury may be encouraged by the results of this study, it is important to put this research in context. Every day, accident victims suffer permanent brain damage from slip-and-fall accidents, car collisions, and other types of personal injury. Not all of these victims will be fortunate enough to make a complete recovery.
Brain injury victims may suffer permanent psychological and physical damage as the result of their accidents, depending on which part of the brain is injured. While it is encouraging to know that certain victims may have a better chance for brain injury recovery than previously believed, it is also important to realize that brain trauma is very unpredictable. Some victims who suffer traumatic brain injury may have no chance to ever regain their previous quality of life.
A brain injury lawyer can help victims understand the realities of their injuries and how to collect damages from those responsible.