Characteristics of Brain Injury

The brain is responsible for producing all forms of human behavior. Unfortunately, the brain is a very fragile organ and severe injury can create significant problems in behavior and adaptive functioning in society. After severe traumatic brain injury, there are several common, long-lasting deficits in functioning that can occur. In general, individuals with severe brain injury are unable to effectively be part of society, they have trouble developing family and social relationships, and cannot participate fully in the life of the community. Specifically, there are several long-lasting deficits after severe TBI that can be divided into three categories: physical, cognitive, and behavioral.

Physical deficits after severe traumatic brain injury include:

  • Paralysis (quadriplegia) or weakness (quadriparesis) in both the arms and legs
  • Paralysis (hemiplegia) or weakness (hemiparesis) on one side of the body
  • Impaired fine motor skills, sometimes with tremors
  • Poor overall body coordination (ataxia)
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Visual field cuts
  • Motor speech disorders like dysarthria and difficulties in oral speech planning (oral apraxia)
  • Inability to carry out learned movements (apraxia)

Cognitive deficits after severe traumatic brain injury include:

  • Impaired attention and concentration
  • Memory impairment for learning and recall of new information
  • Impaired problem-solving and decision- making skills
  • Slowed information processing speed
  • Impulsive thinking without regard for consequences
  • Poor organization, planning, and sequencing abilities
  • Impaired concept formation and abstract thinking
  • Inflexible thinking and mental rigidity
  • Poor judgment, especially in social situations

Behavioral deficits after severe traumatic brain injury include:

  • Inability to engage in purposeful activity
  • Disinhibition
  • Inability to respond appropriately to environmental cues
  • Socially inappropriate behavior
  • Social skills deficits
  • Impulsivity
  • Poor initiation and apathy
  • Lack of insight into behavior and its consequences
  • Inability to profit from experience
  • Denial of deficits
  • Poor self-esteem


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