The human brain weighs about 1.4kg and accounts for approximately 2% of our overall body weight (Farrell & Dempsey 2013).
Our brain is who we are. It is the one thing that makes us unique.
When damage occurs to the brain, changes consequently occur to the person. These changes vary considerably and may include alterations to the person’s speech, mobility, memory and even personality (Synapse 2016).
Brain injuries can be acquired in a variety of ways, including:
The symptoms displayed as a result of brain injury are dependent on where the brain was damaged and the extent of the damage (Better Health Channel 2014).
This article will outline the effects of damage to different areas of the brain.
The frontal lobe is considered the ‘control panel’ of our personality and communication (Healthline 2018).
The frontal lobe is involved in concentration, memory, judgment, problem-solving, emotional expression and motor function, including motor control of speech. It is also important to note that this is where Broca’s area for language production is located (Healthline 2018).
Difficulty with identifying and categorising seen objects;
Temporal lobe epilepsy.
(QLD DoH 2017; Spinalcord.com 2016)
Thalamus and Hypothalamus
The thalamus receives sensory information from all of the sensory systems (except smell) and passes it on to the relevant primary cortical area. Additionally, it helps regulate levels of alertness and consciousness. Damage to the thalamus can result in a permanent coma (Lumen 2017).
The hypothalamus has many functions, including:
Linking the nervous system to the endocrine system;
Maintaining daily physiological cycles;
Regulating fluid balance;
Regulating blood pressure;
Regulating the autonomic nervous system;
Managing sexual behaviour;
Regulating emotional responses.
(Lumen 2017; Seladi-Schulman 2018)
Dysfunction of the hypothalamus can result in:
Prader-Willi syndrome (hypothalamus fails to recognise when someone is full after eating);and
The pons, midbrain and medulla oblongata make up the brain stem, which controls primitive functions such as respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and sleeping (Caswell 2017).
The brain stem is also associated with other functions such as:
Conveying information and signals between the peripheral nerves and spinal cord to the upper brain;
Other autonomic functions (e.g. digestion, salivation, perspiration, pupil dilation and contraction, urination).
The pons bridges different parts of the nervous system together and regulates respiration. Many important nerves originate in the pons (Healthline 2018).
Damage to the pons can result in:
Sensory dysfunction; and
The midbrain is associated with auditory and visual processing and motor movements, particularly of the eyes (Encyclopedia Britannica 2020).
Damage to the midbrain can result in:
Movement disorders; and
The medulla oblongata connects the brain to the spinal cord, with most sensory and motor fibres either crossing into the brain or finishing at this level (Yetman 2020).
Damage to the medulla oblongata can result in:
Loss of gag, sneeze and cough reflex;
Loss of sensation;
Tongue dysfunction; and
Loss of muscle control.
The cerebellum is responsible for the coordination of movement and controls balance, posture, and muscle tone (QLD DoH 2017).
Damage to the cerebellum can result in:
Inability to walk;
Inability to reach out and grab objects;
Dizziness and vertigo;
Slurred speech; and
Inability to make rapid movements.
(QLD DoH 2017)
Every individual’s brain is different, meaning damage to one area of the brain will show certain symptoms in one person but may affect someone else in a different way.
It is also important to note that for some brain injuries, secondary injuries will also occur as well as a result of the swelling and homeostatic response to the initial injury (Synapse 2016).
Caring for someone following a brain injury will be dependent on the injury and subsequent deficits, and often involves rehabilitation from a multidisciplinary team.