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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

From Minnesota Public Radio:
A new study suggests that a small area of the brain, just above the right ear, could be the key to understanding how post traumatic stress disorder works.

Researchers from the Minneapolis VA Medical Center say brain scans of PTSD patients show unusual activity in the part of the brain responsible for memory.

The same researcher team reported last January that they had developed a scan that can identify people with PTSD with 95 percent accuracy.

The researchers used a technique called Magnetoencephalography to measure magnetic fields in the brains of people diagnosed with PTSD. Eighty of the study subjects had active PTSD and 18 were in recovery. The researchers then compared those images with scans taken from 284 people who did not have PTSD.
Tom Berger is Chair of the National PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee for Vietnam Veterans of America. Berger says the study doesn't include anyone who suffered from traumatic brain injury.

"What about people who have suffered a loss of their right temporal lobe, but still continue to have PTSD?"

The V.A.'s Brian Engdahl says future studies will include veterans with mild traumatic brain injury. But he says it was important for his team to examine relatively uncomplicated PTSD patients first.

The study is published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read more.

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A long but fascinating article in Esquire Magazine by Luke Dittrich:

When a surgeon cut into Henry Molaison's skull to treat him for epilepsy, he inadvertently created the most important brain-research subject of our time — a man who could no longer remember, who taught us everything we know about memory. Six decades later, another daring researcher is cutting into Henry's brain. Another revolution in brain science is about to begin.

Read more.

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From U.S. News & World Report:
Concussions in professional football have been a hot topic of late: Just last week, the National Football League announced it would begin suspending players for illegal and dangerous hits that often result in head injuries. Now, a new 12-year study of NFL data suggests that in recent years, players have been sidelined significantly longer after concussions than they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The study, by former members of the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, compared injury and treatment statistics from two consecutive six-year periods (1996 to 2001, and 2002 to 2007) and found the average number of days that players were sidelined after a concussion more than doubled.

"Our study clearly shows that NFL physicians adopted a more conservative approach to concussion management in the second six-year period," said the study's lead author, Dr. Ira R. Casson, a neurologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
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From Time:
Take heart, new moms: you may be feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and distracted, but your brain is actually growing. Especially if you're the kind of mom who's been driving your friends and family mad by talking about how perfect, special and beautiful your new child is.

Despite the fact that the term "mommy brain" typically describes mindless behavior — like putting the milk away in the closet and your hat in the fridge — a new study published in Behavioral Neuroscience finds that women's brains may actually get bigger during new motherhood. The study's authors took brain scans of 19 moms two to four weeks after birth and again two to four months later, and found that their brains showed growth in midbrain regions involved with the experience of pleasure and in the prefrontal cortex, which is linked to reasoning, planning and judgment.

New mothers who seemed to take more pleasure and joy in their role as parent — selecting from a list of adjectives more positive words like "ideal" to describe their infants, and words such as "proud" and "blessed" to describe their experience of parenthood — saw greater growth in their emotion-processing regions.

"This is a nice study," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist and senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy, who was not involved with the research (full disclosure: Perry and I have written two books together). "It is exactly what you would expect knowing what we do about how neural systems respond to patterns of activation. The [parallel] parts in the [baby's] brain...would be much more likely to be getting repetitive stimulation from the somatosensory input from the loving mother — and I would predict [these kinds of] changes in the mother's brain as well. Love can change the brain."
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From Kansas City Star:

The military has been discharging troops who are suffering from combat stress, instead of providing treatment, according to Missouri Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond and several veterans advocates.

That would mean that many who could be afflicted with mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, have left the service without official medical diagnoses and no chance for medical benefits.

"If somebody comes back with battle-related stress and invisible injuries, we owe them a tremendous amount," said Bond, a Republican. "We need to determine what their problem is, not kick them out and let them fend for themselves."

The disputed discharges are for "adjustment disorders," which can occur when a person has trouble handling a stressful event. In the military, service members who've seen combat or undergone other types of stress might be discharged as a result of sleepwalking, airsickness or severe nightmares.

The procedure bypasses the lengthier medical discharge process, but critics say that many troops are discharged erroneously and lose out on medical benefits.

"A service member who has a mental health condition is tempted with the carrot of going home to see family, and most service members will leap at the chance," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, an advocacy group. "Without a medical exam and legal advice, they quickly sign the discharge papers so they can go home. Most often they're not told they are sacrificing benefits."

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From NBC Sports:
On the front page of Friday's USA Today (yes, I go to the local market every morning to get a newspaper . . . on horseback) appears a story that could be very good news for football players.

And very bad news for the sport.

The Army has discovered a blood test that reveals mild traumatic brain injury or concussion, via the presence of "unique proteins that spill into the blood stream from damaged brain cells."

"This is huge," Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff, told Gregg (hey, there's another 3G out there) Zoroya of USA Today.

And indeed it is. If the test works, blood tests can be used to conclusively diagnose players who have had concussions -- at every level of the sport.

Here's the bad news. The test possibly could demonstrate a degree of mild brain injury that will cause parents throughout the country to prohibit their children from playing, cutting off the future supply of potential NFL players.
Not sure that maternal concern over concussions/brain injuries in their sons equates with worry over not having enough future players for the NFL, but that's a debate for another time (and with people more into football than I am).

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From USA Today: The Army says it has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage or concussion, a hard-to-detect injury that can affect young athletes, infants with "shaken baby syndrome" and combat troops.

"This is huge," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.

Army Col. Dallas Hack, who has oversight of the research, says recent data show the blood test, which looks for unique proteins that spill into the blood stream from damaged brain cells, accurately diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury in 34 patients.

Doctors can miss these injuries because the damage does not show up on imaging scans, and symptoms such as headaches or dizziness are ignored or downplayed by the victims.

If the brain is not allowed time to recover and a second concussion occurs, permanent damage may result. Brain injuries afflict 1.4 million Americans each year, says the National Brain Injury Association. Seventy percent are mild cases.

About 300,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered concussions, mostly from roadside bombs, according to a RAND Corp. study.

Hack says the new findings could rival the discovery of unique proteins in the 1970s that now help doctors identify heart disease.

"This will in fact do for brain injury what that test did for chest pain. It's going to change medicine entirely," Hack says.

Read more.

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From National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL):
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain due to a bump, blow, jolt or penetrating head injury. Approximately 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury annually with 52,000 dying. While most of these injuries are mild, resulting in short-term disruption, such as from a concussion, many are severe, resulting in prolonged unconsciousness or amnesia and occasionally leading to permanent disability or death. Prompt emergency response and appropriate trauma care is essential to survival and recovery from TBI. TBI is estimated to have direct and indirect costs of $60 billion to society annually on top of the emotional burden faced by family and friends of someone who suffers a TBI. Effective treatment for TBI sufferers can save money. Adherence to treatment guidelines for severely injured TBI patients costs about $2,500 per person but will save over $11,000 in direct medical costs.
TBI programs and services are funded through various federal and state sources. For example, 22 states and the District of Columbia currently operate a Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver targeting patients with TBI. HCBS waivers are active in 48 states and the District of Columbia (Arizona provides similar services through a different waiver), providing funding for cost-effective services to those at risk of being institutionalized due to a medical condition. Other efforts support TBI research and prevention programs. Six states receive grants for TBI programs from the CDC through the Public Health Injury Surveillance and Prevention Program.
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Here is a map and synopsis of state laws on brain injury.

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Have no idea what our readers will make of this, but I personally think this is one of the worst fundraising ideas I've ever heard. It's hard to imagine that they didn't consider that someone just might be offended by this.

From AFP:
A New Zealand charity on Friday defended a planned charity "zombie walk" to raise money for people with brain injuries, denying it was comparing brain damage victims to the undead.

The event in the North Island town of Rotorua invites participants to dress up and "channel their inner zombie", with promoters declaring "seeing zombies have been eating brains all these years, we figured it's time we gave back".

The highlight of the event, scheduled for later this month, is a mass zombie dance to the tune of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the town's main street.

But the broadcaster TVNZ reported it had received complaints from people with brain injuries saying they were "horrified" at being linked to shuffling corpses returned from the grave.

Brain Injury New Zealand president John Clough said no offence was intended and pointed out similar events had already been staged in Australia.

So what do you think? Bad idea? Or am I being overly sensitive?

Read more.


Want to raise healthy and smart children? Then don't allow them to be couch potatoes. Exercise, it turns out, does more than benefit the body and overall health -- physical fitness builds smarter brains in youngsters, too.

That's the news from a study just published in the journal Brain Research. Scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the relative size of specific structures in the brains of 49 children, all of whom were 9 or 10 years old. The research team discovered that the hippocampus (part of the brain inside the temporal lobe that plays an important part in memory and learning) tended to be significantly larger in the kids who were physically fit. What's more, the fit children performed better on a memory test than youngsters the same age who were out of shape.
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From the Associated Press:

Since his college days, New England Revolution forward Taylor Twellman has had seven diagnosed concussions. Given all the headers and hits over his career, he's wondering if that number might be drastically higher.

Twellman still deals with the effects of a concussion he sustained during a collision with a goalkeeper two years ago, one that possibly cost him a shot at making the U.S. World Cup team and cut short his 2010 season after going on injured reserve in late June.

Now he's volunteered to join a Boston University medical school program in which researchers are trying to better understand the long-term effects of repeated concussions. He's one of 300 athletes in just the last two years who have agreed to undergo a battery of annual tests and donate their brain after death.

"It's not hard (to donate) in that you want to help people down the road," Twellman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "But it is hard since they want your brain because it's been damaged."

The athlete registry is the work of the university's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, a collaborative venture between BU Medical School and the Sports Legacy Institute that's addressing what it calls the "concussion crisis" in sports. The group has been at the forefront of research into head trauma in sports and received a $1 million gift from the NFL, which it has pushed for better treatment of concussions.

In addition to the athlete volunteers, the families of 40 deceased players have donated brain and spinal column tissue of their loved ones to the center. The material has been studied to see if repetitive head injuries possibly led to a degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

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From The Hill:
The Department of Defense has made significant strides toward providing the comprehensive care that our servicemembers with Traumatic Brain Injury and their families need and deserve. These ongoing efforts are already noticeable at the National Naval Medical Center where servicemembers who have sustained severe TBI are treated by an integrated team of health-care providers whose goal is to improve the quality of life of their patients. In another example of collaboration, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center employs a multi-site network with DoD and Veterans Affairs hospitals to provide and improve TBI care for active duty military and veterans. This week, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence began seeing patients and their families dealing with traumatic brain injury concerns.

DoD recognizes the toll TBI injuries take on the families of servicemembers. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center released the TBI Family Caregiver Curriculum in April. This guide offers servicemembers who sustain moderate or severe brain injury and their caregivers comprehensive health information and tools for coping with the challenges they face. It includes skill-development tools for self-management and for communicating with health care providers and other team members involved in the care, treatment and rehabilitation of the servicemembers or veterans who sustain a moderate or severe brain injury.

The work of the DoD continues as the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury works with the military to raise awareness about concussion. Too often, servicemembers overlook the medical consequences of mild TBI because of loyalties to their mission or fear of appearing weak, or because it’s just a concussion.

Since 2000, TBI has been diagnosed in about 188,270 service members with the majority of those cases – 144,453 – involving mild injuries in which symptoms often resolve within hours to days and almost always improve over one to three months. DoD has learned that active duty and reserve servicemembers are at an increased risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian peers. In general, young men between the ages of 18 to 24 are at greatest risk for TBI and many operational and training activities which are routine in the military are potentially dangerous.
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Staten Island, NY – This week Congressman Michael E. McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) introduced the Traumatic Brain Injury Coverage and Support Act, which enables veterans who have been clinically diagnosed with traumatic brain injury to receive VA benefits and treatment, even if the diagnosing doctor practices outside the VA system. This bill is yet another step in a series of ongoing legislative efforts by Rep. McMahon’s bipartisan Invisible Wounds Caucus to highlight and curtail the increasing rates of untreated mental injuries and suicides amongst returning veterans.

Rep. McMahon said, “Traumatic brain injury is a real medical condition that demands immediate care. Unfortunately we are up against an overextended military medical system that is short on doctors and reluctant to take risks. Many of our nation’s heroes have been exposed to an explosive device, and spend far too much time waiting to see a VA neurologist. This is unacceptable and has contributed to the tragically growing number of soldier suicides. My bill will open the VA system to outside neurologists to increase the rate at which veterans are properly diagnosed with TBI and treated through the VA system. ”

Traumatic brain injury remains one of the most under-diagnosed conditions among returning veterans due to the illusiveness of the injury and short-staffed facilities in the VA and DoD. Symptoms range from mental affects like depression, anxiety, and hallucinations to physical expressions like blindness, aphasia, tinnitus and seizures. The Traumatic Brain Injury Coverage and Support Act will direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to treat traumatic brain injury diagnoses conducted by non-Department physicians as sufficient for making decisions with respect to whether or not certain claimants have traumatic brain injury. The bill aims to reduce wait times to see a VA neurologist and the prevalence of misdiagnosis in regards to TBI.
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The bill, passed last week by the House, is the Concussion Treatment and Care Act of 2010 – more commonly referred to as the conTACT Act.

Under the bill, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, after meeting with various experts in the medical, athletic and educational field, will establish federal guidelines on the prevention, identification, treatment and management of concussions for children aged 5-18. Among the guidelines would be standards for when a youth athlete diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury can return to action.

The bill comes in the wake of a newfound awareness in recent years to the dangerous, sometimes deadly brain injury.

According to research by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, more than 400,000 youth athletes suffered traumatic brain injuries during the 2008-09 school year.

Read rest of the article.

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Photo of Dean Hutton by The Star in Yorkshire, United Kingdom
From The Star in The United Kingdom:
South Yorkshire police officers made a "serious mistake" by locking a man up and treating him as a drunk when he was the victim of an assault which left him brain-damaged and needing care for the rest of his life.

Dean Hutton, aged 23, of Buckleigh Road, Wath upon Dearne, was locked in a police cell overnight after he was attacked by two brothers armed with a scaffolding pole.

Although he was the victim, police called to the incident discovered a warrant had been issued for his arrest after he missed a court hearing for using a phone while driving.

When he was booked into a cell at Rotherham's Main Street police station the custody sergeant did not record he had a head injury - and so as his condition deteriorated as a result of the attack officers mistakenly classified him as being drunk.

After 11 hours in custody Mr Hutton's condition had deteriorated so badly he was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on his brain.

An investigation into his treatment in custody carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found errors were made - and called for a series of improvements to the custody admission procedure - both locally and nationally.
Read more.

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From The Wall Street Journal:
A treatment paramedics use for brain injuries was found ineffective, the latest promising therapy for such traumas to fail.

Scientists found that highly concentrated saline solution given intravenously by paramedics doesn't improve patients' long-term survival or neurologic functioning.

For years, the solution, known as hypertonic fluid, has been thought to improve blood flow in the brain while relieving intracranial pressure, both of which have been believed to be helpful in patients with traumatic brain injury.

But a study published this week suggests the treatment is ineffective, the latest in years of setbacks in treating blunt traumatic brain injuries, such as those in falls, sports injuries, car accidents and blast injuries on the battlefield.

Many drugs, such as anti-oxidants and intravenous magnesium, have been tried and failed over the years. The latest findings leave the human hormone progesterone, now being tested in a nationwide study, as perhaps the leading therapy being evaluated as a possible "neuroprotectant," a chemical that can preserve brain function.
Read more.

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From The Mayo Clinic:

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease can vary from person to person. Early signs may be subtle and can go unnoticed. Symptoms typically begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side even after symptoms begin to affect both sides. Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. The characteristic shaking associated with Parkinson's disease often begins in a hand.
  • Slowed motion (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson's disease may reduce your ability to initiate voluntary movement.
  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of your body.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped as a result of Parkinson's disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements. Blinking, smiling and swinging your arms when you walk are all unconscious acts that are a normal part of being human.
  • Speech changes. Many people with Parkinson's disease have problems with speech.
  • Dementia. In the later stages of Parkinson's disease, some people develop problems with memory and mental clarity.

When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease — not only to diagnose the illness but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

Read more.

The Mayo Clinic site has a lot of good information about Parkinson's Disease and its causes, risks, complications, treatment, etc. You might want to check it out.

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This is a multi-faceted look at traumatic brain injuries that we highly recommend. The following is just the opening, but the page is complete with lots of information, pictures, graphs, links, etc. Please check it out.

From The Why Files:
Football, war raise specter of new brain injuries
It’s been a bad month for brains, and particularly for traumatic brain injury:

* A University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide at age 21 had the type of brain damage that is linked to depression and suicide in veteran pro footballers. While the cause of Owen Thomas’s suicide may never be fixed, brain damage in such a young player was a chilling reminder of the brain’s fragility.

* Although the National Football League has new rules requiring concussed players be sidelined for their protection, on Sept. 12, two Philadelphia Eagles stayed on the field, despite signs of concussion visible to millions of viewers.

* An estimated 300,000 American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brain injuries; some severe enough to interfere with memory, speech, thought or movement.

In national security, the national sport, and on the national highways, brains are getting banged. Some estimates say 5 million Americans have some permanent damage from a traumatic brain injury which is due to impact rather than bleeding or loss of blood flow — the causes of stroke.

Eighty two years after dementia pugilistica was diagnosed in boxers, we should not be surprised that impacts in war, car accidents and high-intensity sports are taking a toll on the thinking organ, says Robert John Dempsey, chair of neurological surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “As we have improved our ability to image brains, and to diagnose dysfunction to include cognition, we have discovered deficits that may have been obvious to family members and physicians.”

Dempsey says autopsies of people who have had multiple concussions, “suggest there was a permanent injury, a disruption of axons and loss of brain substance.”

Read more.

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A University of Montana researcher thinks he might be on to a big breakthrough when it comes to brain injuries and strokes. He's studying methamphetamine and how it affects healing in the brain.

Dave Poulsen, a research assistant professor hasn't been spending much time in the lab recently, but that changed when his research partner stumbled onto something big.

Poulsen says "We intended to start out to look at the neurotoxic effects or potential damaging effects of methamphetamine particularly as it related to stroke."

What they found shocked them. A small dose of methamphetamine can treat and even reverse damage from brain injuries. The research even shows low doses can help prevent brain damage from strokes.

Now he's getting some help from the U.S. Government. The Department of Defense gave the UM researcher $1.5 million to study the effects of low doses of methamphetamine when treating traumatic brain injuries. Poulsen says the money will be used to help find the optimal dose and determine how long after injury treatment would still be effective.
Read more.

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Traumatic Brain Injury Law Blog
Brain Blog
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Losing the Physical Self

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