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What happens when a person sustains a brain injury?

Many California residents know that some injuries heal relatively quickly, but many others, such as brain injuries, may require months or even years before a patient can fully recover from the injury. The brain is soft tissue encased and somewhat protected by the skull, but any blow to the head can result in a concussion or something far more severe, such as permanent brain damage.

Each brain injury is unique. When a person suffers a brain injury, neurons and nerve tracts within the brain are damaged and messages within the brain and with the rest of the body are often disrupted or poorly transmitted. The brain is the central control station for the body, responsible for controlling a person's heart rate, body temperature, metabolism and breathing. A brain injury can affect other internal functions as well, such as blood pressure, blood control and bowel control. These changes can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the brain injury.

The extent and type of dysfunction depends on which part of the brain is injured. When the injury is on the left side of the brain, a person can experience trouble controlling right-sided body movements, impaired logic, deficits in verbal memory, depression, anxiety and difficulties comprehending and communicating both expressive and receptive language. Injuries on the right side of the brain can result in trouble controlling left-side body movements, altered music perceptions and creativity, decreased awareness, visual memory deficits and trouble with visual-spatial movements. When the injuries are scattered over different areas of the brain, a person can experience impaired cognitive skills, fatigue, reduced concentration and attention, confusion and reduced thinking speed.

Recovering from a brain injury can be challenging for patients and their families. It is important for family members to support their loved one through the recovery process.

Source:, "Living with brain injury," accessed on Aug. 4, 2014

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