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What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Updated on October 20, 2012
Illustration by Author/eHealer
Illustration by Author/eHealer | Source

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI is the result of brain damage related to an outside force applied to the head. The head may be injured from a blunt force from an object, or the brain may be damaged from head hitting a solid object, such as in an auto accident. Injuries to the brain may change an individual’s behavior, personality and physical abilities. People with brain injury may exhibit mental illness or experience memory loss depending on the area of the brain that is affected. If a brain injury is extensive enough to cause a change in mental functioning, the injury will show up on a brain scan.

What Brain Structures are Responsible for Personality?

As new theories evolve in personality theory, the newest discoveries have to do with the development of certain brain structures that make certain aspects of our personalities more prevalent. For instance, a very conscientious person may have a large frontal lobe, or a person that is outgoing and appears intellectual, may have a large portion of the brain above the eyes, known as the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which is the region responsible for social stimulation and assertion. In other words, the highly developed areas of the brain are what shape our personalities and the way we perceive the world around us. Damage to these unique brain structures may change our perception of the world and thus, our personalities.

Illustration by Author/eHealer
Illustration by Author/eHealer | Source

Frontal Lobe Damage and Personality Changes

Frontal lobe injury can result in severe depression, severe anxiety, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder. After a brain injury, some survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well. The frontal lobe, in most scientists opinion, is the part of our brain that is the most responsible region that shapes our personalities and the way we behave. Our higher functions, such as reasoning, problem solving, rationality and right and wrong, are attributed to the Frontal lobe.

Damage to the Brain and Physical Changes and Abilities

Traumatic brain damage may affect the way people walk, move or process information. Affected persons may lose the ability to speak, hear or visualize. The different lobes of the brain are responsible for controlling specific abilities, and brain damage may "disconnect" the ability of the lobes of the brain to work together. Although amnesia is common in the movies and soap operas, total amnesia lasting for years is quite rare, and if does occur, doesn't last an extended period of time.

The Head is Struck and the Brain Bounces Back and Forth Inside the Skull and Damage to Both Sides of the Brain Occurs

Illustration by Author/eHealer
Illustration by Author/eHealer | Source

Common Brain Injury Occurrences

Brain injuries from consecutive concussions overtime may cause severe physical limitations as well as mental impairments. Professional athletes have been noted to experience severe depression and exhibit a high rate of suicide. Scientists are proclaiming with a strong voice that these changes in behavior, increased substance abuse, depression and violent aggression are all the results of contact sports and the damage it causes the brain tissue. Chris Benoit, the famous wrestler who had murdered his son, wife and himself, had a forensic exam that resulted in a severely damaged brain from sports related injuries. Although this is an extreme case, it is becoming more common in sports figures and other athletes.

Closed Brain Injuries

When the head is struck on either the back or the side of the skull, the effects of Coup and Countrecoup cause the whiplash effect of the fluid filled brain to strike the skull from one side to the other. This damages both sides of the affected brain and may lead to a concussion. There is no signs or symptoms of the skull being broken or damaged on the outside.

Open Head Injuries

Injuries that penetrate the skull and affect the brain are considered "open head injuries." A sharp object or a massive force break the skull and cause damage to the brain tissues. Open head injuries are always treated in an emergency hospital setting and try to prevent infection and manage symptoms while the brain heals.

What is a Concussion?

The brain tissue is bruised from a blow to the head from a force that causes internal bleeding or "shock" that results in unconsciousness with the after affects including confusion or temporary loss of memory. If several concussions occur throughout a lifetime, significant brain damage may change a person's ability to function, or change their personality.

Lobes of the Brain


Parietal Lobe Injuries

The Parietal lobes on the left and right perform different functions and are in some ways independent of each other. The right Parietal lobe understands space and sequence, such as drawing or dressing one's self. Damage to the right side can cause severe deficits in performing self care activities. The left Parietal is concerned with memory and recalling sequences of ideas. For example, when you recall a phone number, it is your left side at work. Damage to the left Parietal may cause difficulty in speaking or recalling the "right words," reading and writing. Problems with distinguishing right from left, and dyslexia may occur. Damage to both sides may cause a profound deficit in controlling one's gaze, and objects and the faces of loved one's may not be recognized. People with this condition often have to hear the voice of the person to recognize who they are.

Temporal Lobe Functions and Injuries

The Temporal lobe is not only responsible for hearing, but for transferring the sounds to the parts of the brain. Auditory perception is a very complex system that requires many different brain functions to hear, recognize the sound and then remember the sound. This lobe also functions as a long term memory center that recalls words and sequential memories to make them recognizable to the brain. If damage occurs to the Temporal area, people will not recognize sounds or language. Although the ears may "hear" the sound, the person may not be able to categorize the words. Highly important to memory, a damaged lobe may even cause a person to loss the ability of speech. Temporal lobe damage may cause emotional changes in personality, such as aggression, paranoia and hyper sexuality.

Damage to the Occipital Lobe

The Occipital is responsible for vision and motor functions associated with visual perception. The ability to locate objects and track moving objects. Fortunately, this lobe is at the back of the head and is not typically injured, although construction workers on a work site have been struck in this area when told to "look out!" by falling objects. Damage to this lobe will cause visual changes to the perception of objects and people. The eyes may still be able to see, but the Occipital lobe cannot tell the rest of the brain "what the object is." Injury to this lobe can cause disturbing visual illusions and hallucinations. Often, people with Occipital lesions or tumors may be inadvertently diagnosed with Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.

Injury to the Cerebellum

The Cerebellum is the center for balance, motor activity and coordination. Recently, scientists have discovered that injury to this region of the brain may result in mood disturbances and changes in cognition as well. Although damage to the cerebellum affects gait, movement and physical skills, it is now a subject of controversy concerning the higher functions of the brain. Once believed to be only a symptom from an impaired Frontal lobe, researchers have now coined Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome as the result of damage to the Cerebellum. Personality changes are now evident, and new studies are being conducted to research further findings.

Functions and Personality Changes from Damage to Lobes of the Brain

Injury to Brain Region or Lobe
The Function of Brain Area
Effects on Behavior or Personality
Signs and Symptoms of Injury
Frontal Lobe
Motivation, Social Skills, Planning, Problem Solving and Filters Behavior
Antisocial Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Disorder.
Inappropriate aggression, Impulsive, Short Attention Span, Loss of Social Skills, Unable to Concentrate or Focus, Poor Memory, Low IQ
Parietal Lobe
Perspective and to Understand Space, Touch, and Volume
Anxiety Related to the Inability to Recognize Faces, Loss of Spacial and Visual Perception
Poor Memory, Poor Judgement, Loss of Math and Reading Ability
Temporal Lobe
Hearing, Long Term Memory and Emotional Responses
Paranoia, Rage Aggression, Hyper Sexual or Sexual Obsession
Inability to Hear, Speak and Poor Long Term Memory
Occipital Lobe
The Center for Visual Perception
Paranoia, Visual Hallucinations and Illusions, High Anxiety and Depression
Blindness, Loss of Visual Field and Perception
Coordination, Balance, Walking, Working Memory, Movement and Higher Reasoning
Affective Disorders, Rage and Anger, Impulsitivity
Loss of Sequential Thought, Walking, Movement and Balance


Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Concussions usually express brain trauma with headache, confusion and memory loss. Head injuries may be very subtle and always consult a medical professional after any injury to the brain that causes loss of consciousness.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or Amnesia
  • Doesn't remember the event
  • Dizzy or visual disturbances
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Speech is affected or slurred
  • Complaint of fatigue

Head Injury in Children

It is difficult at times to tell if your child has had a concussion. Besides headache and tiredness, children cannot always explain their symptoms to adults. Some signs and symptoms in children are:

  • Restless and listless
  • Irritable and easily angered
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in play
  • Disturbances in coordination, walking or balance

If you suspect your child has had a head injury, consult your pediatrician immediately and monitor the child for signs and symptoms of:

  • Vomiting
  • Increased headache pain
  • Symptoms that worsen overtime
  • Fever
  • Difficulty with motor skills and balance


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    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Cam, thanks for your supportive comments. Head injuries are very challenging and people struggle to recover for many years. Closed injuries and concussions plague the NFL and are causing serious mental illness in players. See you soon Cam at the hubs!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      8 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      ehealer, you have produced another very informative, well constructed hub. I worked for five years with a man who had experienced closed head injury as a teen. I recognize many of the symptoms you described in the hub. I also was aware that professional athletes in contact sports suffer head injuries, but I was not aware that these occurrences were on the rise. Thanks for the hard work.

    • Simba73 profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      @DrMark good point mate, As when I woke up in hospital I could not even walk !!! I was told after that it was due to the brain cavity being half full with blood , don't know if this makes sense or not , I just excepted what they told me, they showed me the scans and you could see it like a half full cup kinda thing. Perhaps this could have been the reason for my board balance to be almost non-existant, I hope it has sorted itself out now, my year has been pretty rough so I have not even been back in the water yet but will try soon, I'll let you know how it went. I think it may be important to add that I discovered this fact shortly after the injury and may not have fully recovered at that point.

      ehealer the scan showed the whole brain was haemorrhaged all of it , I was shocked to tell you the truth as I did not see the scans until being assessed 3 months later , I was under the impression only one side of my brain had been injured until seeing the scans, and being told the full extent of what had happened, and apparently they were shocked how well I had recovered, maybe ignorance was bliss on this occasion LOL


    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      hello DrMark, I don't know exactly where and what part of the brain is involved with Simba, but yes, it is very probable that he experienced damage to the part of the brain, possibly the cerebellum, that is responsible for balance, spacial perception and touch. I wouldn't know for sure without tests, but I would say that is very possible. The other areas of the brain may compensated, which explains his enlightened ability to be creative. Thanks for your comments and questions, I appreciate you stopping by!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      8 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi eHealer I am curious about Simba73´s changes also. He had posted a question about possible loss of his surfing skills, and I wonder if some enhancements are also cancelled out by some losses (such as the loss of the ability to balance on a board). Do you think there has been any research done in that area? It may not be a subject that would draw much interest, but it would be an interesting hub.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Simba73, and thank you for your very interesting comments and questions. I am not a doctor, but I do know that certain brain injuries will rejuvenate nervous tissue in places it wasn't as prevalent before a brain injury. Many people have presented with increased creativity after a benign brain tumor had been found, and are astonished at what they can do. It is a very interesting phenomenon and quite rare. I have a case for you at this link about a women who experience similar circumstances. Perhaps you could read it and let me know what you think. Although her enlightenment was caused by a harmless tumor, she still has experienced changes in the brain structure similar to your brain injury. Take a look and hope this helps you.

    • Simba73 profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      This is an awesome hub, and has told me more than the doctors,hospitals and specialists have, last year I suffered major brain injuries and a fractured skull, in fact my whole brain was haemorrhaged ,and you have answered so much for me, I feel will be coming back to the hub quite a bit.

      One thing I have not spotted in it though is an explanation that I was hoping to find, which is that fact that I feel I'm 100 times more creative since the injury. Is this possible ??? many of your desrcibed symtoms did in fact happen but is there any possibilty or my suspicions ??


    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Kelley! So nice to see you, I hope you got to read it after I fixed the typos! Thank you so much for reading my hub and being so wonderfully supportive.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Spartucusjones, I just fixed about 15 typos in the last 2 minutes! Guess my Frontal lobe isn't working well today. Thank you for your support and it is always great to see you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow this hub blew me away eHealer. The diagrams you drew and pictures/table you provided are all amazing. Voted way up and shared. Kelley

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 

      8 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Very informative and practical hub. Well researched and well presented. It is obvious that you are very knowledgeable on the subject. Thanks for sharing.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Dontei for the support and kudos to your pursuit of knowledge in a very noble profession.

    • Dontei profile image


      8 years ago

      As a student who has taken interest in cognitive psychology I found this hub very interesting. You have a lot of great info combined with good organization and writing skills. Thanks a bunch for the read.


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