WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY HEAD?
The adult brain consists of about three pounds of a very fragile substance resembling cottage cheese. It is protected from its environment in three major ways.
- 1) A tough skin-like matter that surrounds the brain called dura matter.
- 2) Cerebrospinal fluid which is a clear fluid our brain floats in.
- 3) The sturdy bone that surrounds the brain we call the skull.
Although this is an amazing design, it doesn’t completely protect the brain from outside forces such as the kind that happen in motor vehicle accidents.
Brain injuries are commonly caused by a jarring of the head due to sudden stop or speeding up either causing something entering the brain, which are called open head injuries, or a shaking of the brain within the skull causing lacerations (cuts) and contusions (bruising) of the brain. This can cause swelling, bleeding and deformation of the cottage cheese – I mean brain matter.
Secondary damage can result from the pressure inside the skull called ‘intracranial pressure’ from swelling and bleeding which makes the original injury worse and may even cause more injury with the swelling.
Axonal injuries are the twisting, breaking or stretching of the axons of the brain neurons. If the damage is severe enough to break or tear a blood vessel there will be bleeding in the brain. Bleeding in the brain can cause several issues such as large collections of blood in one place causing lots of other problems.
The brain is made of several different areas; each serves a very specific purpose. In motor vehicle accidents the two areas of the brain that are usually get injured are the frontal lobe, right behind your forehead, and the temporal lobe, just beside your ears on either side of your brain.
If an individual experiences damage to the frontal lobe they typically struggle with executive functioning such as planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, rule acquisition, initiating appropriate actions and inhibiting inappropriate actions, and selecting relevant sensory information. If an individual experiences damage to the temporal lobe they typically struggle with auditory processing speech and vision. Two important areas in the temporal lobe are the hippocampus which is important in memory, and the amygdule that is important in regulating impulses and managing anger.