For decades, it has been assumed that there is a strong correlation between a loss of physical and psychological function after a serious brain injury. Now, new research from Germany suggests that it isn’t as closely related to brain structure injuries as first thought. This news could give hope to thousands of brain injury victims who assumed that their injury would mean a lifetime of debilitation and therapy.
The research was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Cognition and Neuro Sciences, and was led by Drs Rainer Scheid and D. Yves von Cramon. Their research indicated that the loss of physical and psychological function is usually blamed on changes in brain structure after a traumatic brain injury. These injuries are usually caused by traffic accidents, falls, blows to the head or a stroke.
The scientists analysed data from 320 patients treated in the Cognitive Neurology Outpatient Clinic at the University of Leipzig. Spanning a period of 11 years between 1996 and 2007, they looked at whether the imaging, clinical and neuropsychological findings correlated. After extensive research, they have concluded that there is no convincing correlation with the patients’ general condition or with their performance in a battery of neuropsychological tests.
Their findings showed that, using magnetic resonance imaging, they could find no visible changes in the brain structure in 49 of the patients examined. Although the research is at its early stages, this could indicate that brain injuries have less of an effect on physical and psychological symptoms normally associated with such injuries than first thought. The study did find a correlation between post traumatic epilepsy and brain contusions, but the natural assumption that a brain injury automatically means a lifetime of physical and psychological trauma is being challenged.
“The research is at a very early stage, and we don’t want to raise false hope here,” commented Paul Breen of specialist injury solicitors Serious Law. “ But the German study does suggest that brain injury patients have a greater chance of recovering the vast majority of their mental and physical functions, even if the structure of the brain has been damaged. The research needs much more investigation and of course it will depend on the severity of the damage, but it does offer a glimmer of hope,” he adds.
The research has been published in the German Physician Sheet International and is currently undergoing peer review. “Neuroscience is a highly complex field of study, and we know more about outer space than we do about the intricacies of the human brain,” says Paul. “But the research does seem to suggest that the human brain is a lot more resilient than we might have thought before,” he adds.
Although the German study is unlikely to change how serious brain injury is treated in the immediate future, it will encourage specialists to consider that a supposedly ‘damaged’ brain is more capable of repairing itself than previously thought. This could, in years to come, send the treatment of brain injuries in a completely new direction.
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