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Even mild brain injuries can cause long-term damage

When people are involved in a serious accident that causes a sudden jolt to the head, they may suffer from a traumatic brain injury. As the soft tissue of the brain hits against the bony skull, it can cause bruising, bleeding and inflammation. The degree of the injury depends on the severity of the blow and how much tissue is damaged. While many studies focus on the effects of severe brain injuries, researchers have found that even mild brain injuries can cause long-lasting damage in some cases.

A study, published by the medical journal Neurology, found that mild brain injuries that damage the white matter of the brain can be difficult to diagnose. However, these injuries can affect peoples’ cognition over a long period of time. Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to find mild brain injuries through contrast and brightness. A change in the brightness of the image indicates damage to the white matter, where healthy tissue appears neat and orderly.

After participants were diagnosed with mild brain trauma, their cognition was measured using the Glasgow Coma Scale. This method of testing looks at peoples’ verbal activity, eye movement and physical movement to indicate the degree of trauma. People that had mild brain trauma scored 25 percent lower on the GCS than those who were healthy. After one year, some participants experienced improved cognitive functioning; however, some participants’ brain scans still showed areas of damage in the white matter. The results of the study may help therapists treat patients with even mild brain injuries to help them have a better chance of recovery.

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