Question: I am a veteran who served in Artillery for 7 years in the US Army. I served from 1994 till Jan 2002.

About three years ago I was diagnosed with a severe traumatic injury by a neurologist. Since I have no memory of what or when it happened, I am not sure what to do about it. Is there a test that can be performed to determine at what point in time that it occurred?

Answer: Unfortunately, there is no definitive test to determine if a person has had a brain injury or not. That being said, you could have an MRI of your brain which could determine if you have suffered any structural damage to your brain. However, often times MRI scans cannot pick up damage to the microstuctures of the brain (the connections between brain structures) so it cannot be ruled out. What led to you seeing a neurologist? Often time, brain injury is diagnosed based on the symptoms a person is experiencing as well as their history. With your history of being in the military, that may have lead to the diagnosis of brain injury. 


Question: For many years I've wanted to get an MRI to find out if all the trauma's I've had to my brain in my younger years are having a profound effect on my life now. Dealing with learning disabilties all my life I would like to know if a simple scan and blood test and maybe some vitamins might be of significant help. 

Answer: In order to get an MRI done, you would need to talk to your physician and get a referral to get an MRI. Vitamins and good nutrition are also important for good brain health. There have been studies in animal models of brain injury that have shown that fish oil has some protective effects on the brain. It is harder to study this in humans, but I always tell people it doesn't hurt to take fish oil and it may even help you. A blood test is more diagnostic but may tell you if you have hormonal deficiencies or issues with glucose, liver functioning etc. Your physician would be able to order these tests for you or to send you to someone who could order the tests.


Question: I am interested in knowing what kind of test someone can ask for to determine if there is a TBI?

Answer: There is not one test that can definitively determine if a person sustained a brain injury or not. Often times, you will see a battery of tests that can be performed. Some of these include a imaging of the brain (typically CT or MRI is used) and neuropsychological testing (to determine if functional issues exist such as memory issues, attention deficits, word finding problems, etc). Sometimes there are "self-report" symptom checklists that have a person check off whether or not they are experiencing symptoms that are commonly observed following a brain injury, Physicians will take a history and determine if there was an event that could have led to a brain injury (fall, motor vehicle accident, etc) and often time family members or close friends are asked to comment on how this person's behavior may have changed or what difficulties are currently being experienced by the person who may have suffered the brain injury. Researchers are looking to find that definitive test to determine if a brain injury has occurred but so far there is not a blood test or objective measure that can determine if a brain injury occurred. Instead we perform all of the things mentioned above and see if the answers provided by these tests "fit" with a diagnosis of brain injury.