Accidents happen, and most of us have experienced getting a blow to the head at some point in our lives. These injuries are common, and they might not generally occur to you to seek medical attention after having your bell rung. However, blows to the head can also cause serious complications which may not always be immediately evident when the injury occurs. When your head is subjected to repetitive injuries or a blow of sufficient violence and force, the resulting damage to the brain may be devastating.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can range widely in seriousness, covering everything from mild concussions to severe brain damage which can cause coma or death. TBIs are among the most common causes of death and disability, resulting in over 200,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States. Even brain injuries, which do not initially appear to be serious, can have a major effect on brain function, causing lingering issues such as personality changes, cognitive difficulties, mental illness, and more.
We are constantly growing in our understanding of the ways that TBIs can affect the architecture of the brain. In the past, there have been few treatments that have been helpful in addressing these issues. Neurotherapeutix has been on the forefront of this area of study, applying our unique functional MRI guided transcranial magnetic stimulation approach to diagnose and treat the physical and neurological effects of TBIs more effectively than ever before.
Any sudden, violent blow or jolt to the head can result in a TBI, regardless of the age or background of the patient. This can result from any number of things. Falling and hitting your head can cause a brain injury, as can physical assaults or being involved in a car, motorcycle, or bike accident. You are at a higher risk of receiving a TBI if you participate in contact sports such as football, hockey, or boxing. Repeated collisions and blows to the head can have extremely damaging long-term effects, such as the progressive condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The symptoms of a TBI will vary depending on the type and severity of the trauma. Even a relatively mild concussion can cause noticeable issues such as headache, vertigo, nausea, fatigue, and unusual sensitivity to light and sound. Cognitive symptoms of TBIs include brain fog, memory loss, and difficulty speaking or processing language (aphasia). Coordination, planning, and ability to follow through and complete everyday tasks may also suffer. You might notice changes to your mood or personality, including unexplained mood swings, depression, and difficulty controlling anger. Sensory changes such as blurred vision, tinnitus, or changes to the sense of taste and/or smell can also happen.
Any of these symptoms should be reported to a doctor immediately, and while milder TBIs may not require any treatment besides rest and observation, the side effects of a brain injury do not always abate over time. There are also serious long-term complications which could occur. Some people experience seizures in the wake of a TBI – a condition known medically as post-traumatic epilepsy. Finally, traumatic brain injuries can significantly increase your risk of developing long-term degenerative illnesses like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease.
The nature and severity of a TBI is typically diagnosed through a review of your symptoms as well as an imaging test such as an MRI or CT scan. At Neurotherapeutix, we can identify the issue with greater precision than other practices due to our advanced resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) MRI technology. By using this functional MRI method, we can visually observe the function and interaction of the brain’s networks. This allows us to see which specific neurological connections have been affected by a TBI.
TBI treatment depends on the symptoms and seriousness of the injury. A severe TBI may require emergency surgery to repair skull fractures and alleviate potentially fatal inflammation of the brain. Medications may be necessary to prevent seizures and other complications. Long-term issues may require approaches such as occupational or physical therapy, or physical medicine and rehabilitation may assist in restoring physical and executive function over time. Working with a speech therapist or psychologist might be helpful in reducing the cognitive difficulties that may emerge following a TBI.
A TBI will cause what is known as diffuse axonal injury, which causes dysfunction and impairment of brain function by cutting off the connections of neural networks. This damage does not have anatomical signatures and as such very difficult to “see” on MRI or CT images. Neurotherapeutix’s unique functional MRI technology visualizes the damage by giving us the capability to map the function of the brain and see where these networks have been disrupted. Treatment will target these specific areas with the goal of repairing connections and restoring the normal architecture of the brain.
Over the course of several TMS sessions, which are customized to address the neurological connections sheared by a TBI, many patients begin to see improvement in cognitive function and an overall reduction in seizures and other long-term side effects of the brain injury. This method is guided by fMRI scans, which can be performed periodically to evaluate the progress of recovery and make modifications to the treatment program when needed. Repetitive TMS treatments may also help to reduce the overall risk of long-term degenerative brain diseases – such as Alzheimer’s or dementia – which are commonly linked to TBIs. Guided TMS is a non-invasive method which has non-to-minimal side effects and the power to induce functional and structural changes over time.