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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

Okay, maybe it's because I'm on the downhill side of 50...okay, 60...but I liked the results of this research. If you're a member of AARP and/or getting "senior" perks for everything from drycleaning to cruising, I think you'll like it, too.

From PsychCentral:
A slower brain may be a wiser brain.

New research proves that wisdom develops with aging, and that wisdom is the result of the brain slowing down and the resulting decrease in impulsivity.

“Older people are less likely to respond thoughtlessly to negative emotional stimuli because their brains have slowed down compared to younger people. This, in fact is what we call wisdom,” said Professor Dilip Jeste of the University of California, San Diego, who led the research study.

While there it may be common wisdom that it is difficult for older people to learn new skills — e.g., “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” — that appears to be a misconception. Prior research has made clear that even after brain damage, for instance, after a stroke, the brain has an amazing ability to regenerate lost function. After damage to one part of the brain, other areas of the brain are able to compensate by learning new functions. This ability is known as neuroplasticity, and appears to carry on throughout life.

Professor Jeste commented, “Probably the most exciting breakthrough in the last decade has been the finding that neuroplasticity, the ability to generate neurons and synapses, continues throughout an individual’s life.

Keep reading the article.

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During the six years that I've known Jack, I've come to understand the causes closest to his heart. One cause he's especially passionate about is getting help for caregivers. If you've spent any time on this site at all, you already know that Jack suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 1989, and he knows firsthand the tragic toll sometimes paid in caring for someone with such an injury. His own marriage eventually unraveled as a result of his accident.

According to HBO, which created a documentary series called The Alzheimer's Project, "There are currently 10 million Americans providing 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, according to an estimate from the Alzheimer's Association." One of the films is a 48-minute look at caregivers.
Alzheimer's can take a great toll on the physical and emotional well-being not just of the patient, but of the caregiver as well. "It's not uncommon for the caregiver to die before the patient. It's a 24/7 job and often the caregiver has no help. But it's a long haul, you can't live like that and survive. Caregivers must be able to find some respite..."
In Tallahassee, we are fortunate to have an organization also called "The Alzheimer's Project." According to their web site:
The Alzheimer's Project is a non-profit organization funded by grants and private donations. The Alzheimer's Project is dedicated to providing relief to the caregivers of persons suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or other memory impairments. ALL services available to the caregivers are provided FREE of charge.

The goal of the Alzheimer's Project is to keep caregivers healthier, both physically and emotionally, to prolong the abilities of caregivers, and to delay institutionalization of the patients.
From today's Tallahassee Democrat:
The Alzheimer's Project is a nonprofit organization that has been providing respite care for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients since 1991.

"We just want to help caregivers," [Recie Culpepper]said. "They're the ones who go all out 24/7 without a lot of rest."
In Tallahassee, we're lucky that at least two churches, St. Paul's United Methodist and Killearn United Methodist, have Alzheimer's Project programs in place.
The respite program at Killearn United Methodist Church opened in April. It's free and runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month.

St. Paul's United Methodist, which initiated the program in 1991, has sessions each Friday. Other groups including some in outlying counties have varying schedules.

According to Bill Wertman, the director of the Alzheimer's Project, all a church has to provide is a large room, access to handicapped bathrooms and a small storage area and about three volunteers the day of the program. Providing food during lunch is encouraged, but not required. The Alzheimer's Project will provide everything else, including staff, programming, insurance and screening.
Caregivers are often "on duty" 24/7. They get no sick leave, vacation time or holidays. They often feel alone. That's why organizations like "The Alzheimer's Project" deserve our support... and why we need more organizations like them.

Read the entire article and visit the web page for The Alzheimer's Project in Tallahassee.

Also of interest: The national Alzheimer's Association has a Caregiver Stress Check for persons taking care of someone with a disabling condition like Alzheimer's (or TBI). They also offer this page of resources, well worth checking out.

More on the military's failure to adequately diagnose and treat TBI's.
This from Pro Publica:
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senators pressed senior military leaders today to improve their efforts to address traumatic brain injuries, suicide and other wounds suffered by soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Responding to what he called "disconcerting" reports by NPR and ProPublica, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military needed to better address the wide range of medical and behavioral problems affecting troops.

Earlier this month, we reported that the military was failing to diagnose and adequately treat troops with brain injuries. Since 2002, official military figures show more than 115,000 soldiers have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries, also called concussions, which leave no visible scars but can cause lasting problems with memory, concentration and other cognitive functions.

But the unpublished studies that we obtained and the experts that we talked to said that military screens were missing tens of thousands of additional cases. We also talked to soldiers at one of the military's largest bases, who complained of trouble getting treatment.
Keep reading the article.

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From Pro Publica:
The military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom receive little or no treatment for lingering health problems, an investigation by ProPublica and NPR has found.

So-called mild traumatic brain injury has been called one of the wars' signature wounds. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers' brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.

Officially, military figures say about 115,000 troops have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. But top Army officials acknowledged in interviews that those statistics likely understate the true toll. Tens of thousands of troops with such wounds have gone uncounted, according to unpublished military research obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

Among our findings:
  • From the battlefield to the home front, the military's doctors and screening systems routinely miss brain trauma in soldiers. One of its tests fails to catch as many as 40 percent of concussions, a recent unpublished study concluded. A second exam, on which the Pentagon has spent millions, yields results that top medical officials call about as reliable as a coin flip.
  • Even when military doctors diagnose head injuries, that information often doesn't make it into soldiers' permanent medical files. Handheld medical devices designed to transmit data have failed in the austere terrain of the war zones. Paper records from Iraq and Afghanistan have been lost, burned or abandoned in warehouses, officials say, when no one knew where to ship them.
  • Without diagnosis and official documentation, soldiers with head wounds have had to battle for appropriate treatment. Some received psychotropic drugs instead of rehabilitative therapy that could help retrain their brains. Others say they have received no treatment at all, or have been branded as malingerers.
This is a long article but well worth the read. Also follow this link to see what happens "When Blasts Damage the Brain."

Read the entire article here.

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From Nicole Howley, Nationwide Injury and Legal News:

West Palm Beach, FL—An insurance company’s denial of rehabilitation services for a teenage traumatic brain injury (TBI) victim has caused the 18-year-old to go without the care he needs. The teen was involved in a crash at the Palm Beach International Raceway last Christmas, when his parents gave him permission to race his Corvette, which they had given him for his 16th birthday, as reported by WPBF.

Casey Bicknell, 18, slammed his sports car into a wall during his first lap at the track, which left him with a TBI.

The wreck has caused Bicknell to undergo several surgeries, including one operation to remove of section of his skull. He has since been at the rehabilitation center. Bicknell currently cannot communicate or walk.

Bicknell has now been forced to go home after their insurance company has denied coverage for his rehab stay. The insurance company believes the treatment he would be getting wouldn’t improve his condition.
Whether the parents should have their own heads examined for giving him permission to race in the first place is a question for another day. The issue here is that he did race, was severely injured, and now the insurance company won't pay for rehab. We know from experience, both anecdotal and personal, that people with TBI's can and do improve, often long after medical science says is possible. Not knowing the specifics of Casey's case, we can't offer an informed opinion, but we can say that insurance companies (read "bottom line") too often give up too soon. Until we know more, we're with the parents on this, and we wish them luck.

Original article is here.

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With summer upon us, we are sure to see children engaged in sports and recreational play such as baseball, soccer, bike riding, Rollerblading, swimming and skate boarding. This should raise the issue of safety for our children and our need to be aware of hazards and preventions.

An estimated one million children in this country sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury each year. Every 21 seconds, a head injury occurs in the U.S. The majority of these are called concussions.

A concussion is a brain injury in which the skull has not been broken. The brain can be injured from the inside by banging and bouncing against skull walls which can cause bruising, tissue tears, swelling, and chemical changes. Often, x-rays and brain scans will not detect the damage. However, the impact on a child's functioning can be drastic.

Common after effects of significant concussion injuries to children can include: Problems with attention and concentration, memory and learning, frustration and irritability. These may not show up immediately but may develop as weeks and months pass and chemical changes take place in the brain. These can be misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactive disorder and more recently the trend of bipolar disorder in children.
Keep reading the article.

From The Daily Mail online: This week, research concluded that just half an hour spent on your mobile every day could raise your risk of developing brain cancer by as much as 40 per cent.

the £15 million, decade-long study was carried out on more than 5,000 men and women with brain tumours from 13 different countries, as well as a similar number of healthy people, all of whom were interviewed about their phone habits.

The researchers - scientists from around the globe who worked together for the World Health Organisation's interphone report - found increased risks among those who used their phones the most.

The frequent users were also more likely to suffer a tumour on the same side of their brain to the ear they used for phone calls.

More worrying still, a separate study by an American environmental lobby group put the risk 25 per cent higher, while warning of a 'brain tumour pandemic' in years to come.

Lloyd Morgan, of America's Environmental health trust lobby group, said all the risk levels suggested by the interphone report should be increased significantly. He warned: 'What we have discovered indicates there is going to be one hell of a brain tumour pandemic unless people are warned and encouraged to change current cell phone use.'

Yet, confusingly, UK cancer charities dismissed the group's claims as ' overblown', saying national brain cancer rates had not increased in proportion to 'skyrocketing' phone use.

And Professor Anthony Swerdlow, who led one of the two British research teams involved in the interphone report, insisted: 'i've still seen no convincing evidence that brain cancers are caused by radi o frequencies.'

Scientists fear it could be another decade before we learn who's right. in the meantime, sales of mobile phones continue to soar, with an estimated 40 million
people now fully fledged mobile users, some of them children as young as five.

Keep reading the article.

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Health Jockey reports that:
A latest study highlights that symptoms of headache, dizziness and anxiety in some patients with traumatic brain injury may potentially increase or may be completely discarded with the help of particular eyeglass lenses that contain prisms. The experts included doctors from three southeast Michigan hospitals and one in private practice. They involved 43 patients with TBI for the study. It was revealed that TBI causes misalignment of the visual image or vertical heterophoria.

The study reveals that TBI supposedly causes visual image misalignment or vertical heterophoria. in order to correct this misalignment and restrict double vision the eye muscles are used to force the eyes back into proper alignment. Due to this the eye muscles get overworked, strained and fatigued. This accounts for numerous post-concussive symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, anxiety and neck pain. It was observed that using prismatic eyeglass lenses led to a 71.8 percent reduction of patient’s symptoms.

“This represents a new approach to the treatment of post-concussive symptoms,” says Mark S. Rosner, M.D., adjunct clinical instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and Emergency Department staff physician at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. “Vision was known to be affected by TBI, but now it appears that the vision abnormalities caused by the TBI are causing the other post-concussive symptoms.”
Keep reading the article.

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As the nine-year “War on Terror” rages onward, high suicide rates, multiple deployments and lack of psychological treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) alarms military personnel and many point to the real cost of the Middle East offensive will be health care after the war has ended. This disparity will likely exact a large toll on the nation’s military readiness in future conflicts.

Several reports including the Rand Study, Harvard Study and Dole-Shalala Commission find that the real cost of the war effort will come long after the fighting has ended and soldiers seek treatment for a myriad of injuries they suffered on the battlefield.

The signature injuries and perhaps the hardest to document are the elusive and well-hidden Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI and PTSD.

When soldiers return from the Middle East they are subjected to a plethora of details that need to be taken care of so they are able to receive adequate treatment, make their adjustment to life outside the battlefield and return to their families.

Since most deployments last months if not more than a year, most returning service members hastily scan through the mountains of paperwork in an effort to get home quickly.

Among the forms each soldier receives is a self-assessment for PTSD. When asked what the questions consist of and how many questions are on the PTSD evaluation form, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Gigail "Gail" Cureton media relations said, “That’s not information we release.”

However, the question doesn’t lie with how many or what the content of the questionnaire contains, but the fact it is a self-assessment. Many soldiers may not show signs of TBI/PTSD until weeks or even months after they return home and as many reports cite there are simply not enough military trained staff to adequately take care of the men and women who serve in conflict zones overseas.
Read the entire article.

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From Science News:
A tiny device placed inside a central vein can safely refrigerate blood as it flows through stroke patients, lowering their temperature and raising the possibility that they might gain brain protection from hypothermia without having to be packed in ice.

Although the trial didn’t find that stroke patients getting their blood cooled fared any better or worse than a comparison group of patients who weren’t cooled, the technology proved safe enough to clear the way for testing the device in a much larger group...

The new results also demonstrate that stroke patients can be cooled down to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit safely while they are receiving a powerful clot-busting drug called tPA, the standard treatment given to patients during the first few hours of a clot-induced stroke.

“Cool temperatures have been associated with better outcomes,” said Daniel Lackland, an epidemiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “We’re seeing some excitement about an intervention with this device.” If further trials support use of this kind of cooling therapy, he said, “that would be a great finding — it’s a relatively easy thing to do.”

The protective effects of cooling are well-documented in incidents of drowned people being revived with little brain damage after falling though the ice on frozen lakes. But the precise biological mechanism responsible for this benefit is poorly understood. Slowing metabolism may limit cell death, Bushnell said.

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In the U.S., March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, but our neighbor to the north sets aside June of each year to draw awareness to a wound that recognizes no borders. The Brain Injury Association of Canada is a great resource for our Canadian readers. Its Web site has lots of information about brain injuries, how to prevent them, and links to local resources. Please check them out if you or anyone you know lives in Canada with a brain injury.

From The Brain Injury Association of Canada: The Brain Injury Association of Canada, its partners and community of survivors, caregivers and health professionals, designates June as National Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada to highlight awareness on the effects and causes of acquired brain injury across Canada. It is estimated that close to 4% of Canadians are living with an acquired brain injury.

As incredible as this may sound, brain injury in Canada is a silent epidemic. In Canada, brain injury is the number one killer and disabler of people under the age of 44. Statistics further indicate that incidences are two times greater within the male population.

Continue reading.

ThinkFirst is a Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries that has been in operation over 17 years. It was founded by neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator.

Currently, there are nineteen local Chapters across the country, all managed by volunteers (medical professionals, teachers, coaches, and injury survivors). By using programs in their local communities, the chapters try to raise awareness of ways to avoid brain and spinal cord injuries.

Visit their Web site for more information.

From The Times and Transcript: Brain injuries can occur suddenly and without warning, affecting everyone from one to 99. "In an instant, life is changed forever," says the Brain Injury Association of New Brunswick. Brain injury can happen in endless ways from motor vehicle crashes and sporting events, to slipping on ice or shaken baby syndrome, the group explains.

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month with the first week designated Disabilities Week... It's estimated that thousands of Canadian suffer traumatic brain injury each year with young adults representing the majority.

Read the article.

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