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A Neuroscientist Is Calling This Injury A Silent Epidemic — Here’s Why

TBI, a common injury in sport, military, and domestic environments, alters the fundamental aspects of gene regulation, which could explain mechanisms by which the TBI pathology can divert into other brain disorders. The brain is not anchored to anything in the skull, so any bump will make the brain move, which can then cause it to hit the skull in multiple places, sending shock waves through the brain. This leads to diaschisis, which are mini lesions across the brain that can result in inflammation and mini hemorrhages.

Extended periods of inflammation are key factors in TBI. This happens when microglial cells (aka immune cells in the brain) increase in response to the injury. This inflammatory response is initially good, but if the injury is extensive, it will lead to an overabundance of microglia, and brain tissue can become damaged. This results in reduced activity in different parts of the brain–even mild brain injuries can cause sustained cognitive and psychiatric problems.

“Concussive brain injury reprograms genes, which could lead to predisposition to neurological and psychiatric disorders, and that genomic information from peripheral leukocytes has the potential to predict TBI pathogenesis in the brain,” write the authors of a 2017 study published in EBioMedicine. But there is research also showing this disruptions caused by a head injury seems to affect a master gene. This master gene “tells” other genes what to do. When affected by the head injury, the master gene can create confusion with other genes in the brain, and may even change them long-term.

TBIs also change the way energy flows through the brain: The genetic changes associated with TBI appear to disrupt brain activity over the damaged areas, which can be picked up by quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG) technology, aka “brain mapping.”

There are many symptoms of TBIs, including, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, schizophrenia, and more.

One peculiarity of any TBI is that talents you had prior to the injury might be lost, and completely new talents could emerge in their place. There have even been cases in which someone becomes a savant following a head injury, such as a person affected with a developmental disorder (like autism or intellectual disability) who exhibits exceptional skill or brilliance in some limited field (i.e mathematics or music).

There are also massive emotional changes associated with TBIs, including an extreme struggle to control or manage emotions. Many people who experience frustration, because they often remember how they used to function. They also experience language change, such as tangential speech and/or word finding–needing more words to explain themselves, over-explaining, oversharing, becoming frustrated when people don’t understand them, feeling easily triggered in emotional situations, and/or feeling like they cannot control voice tone or body language well–especially when triggered.

All these symptoms can be so mild that they can go unnoticed. However, if left unmanaged, the symptoms can progress. (The key word here being if–because there is hope!)

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