Even mild head injuries may cause brain damage
Researchers from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience analyzed people who had suffered clinically mild brain injuries as a result of common accidents, such as falling from a bicycle or slow speed car accidents, and found that even though their injuries were not serious, they still had memory and thinking problems.
The scientists compared 53 people who had traumatic brain injury (TBI) (44 with mild TBI and nine with moderate TBI) with 33 individuals who had no brain injury. All participants completed memory and thinking skills tests and underwent brain scans. The TBI patients had the tests and scans about six days after their injuries. Of these patients, 23 underwent the same tests and scans about a year later.
The results showed that compared with the uninjured participants, those with mild or moderate TBI had damage in the white matter of their brains. This showed up as disruption to nerve axons, which are the fibers that connect brain cells and allow them to relay messages.
A year later, however, there was no difference in memory and thinking skills scores between the TBI patients and healthy participants, despite the scans of the TBI patients showing there were still some areas of brain damage. The researchers note that these results show that thinking skills were recovering over time and the areas of brain damage were not as widespread across the brain as they had been in the beginning of the study.