Neurobiological Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury on At-Risk

Neurobiological Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury on At-Risk Populations

Throughout adolescence, the brain is not fully formed. The growth occurs in Executive Functioning. Executive functioning is your ability to plan, organize, and to defer instant gratification. It’s like the “air traffic control center of the brain”

(Executive Function & Self-Regulation, 2015, p. 1. It helps to regulate certain brain tasks to guard against impulsive decisions. It helps to see the “big picture” so you can form different hypotheses. With executive functioning, everything’s not black and white. In adolescents, this form of brain functioning is not fully formed during that stage. The executive functions of the brain are not fully formed and complete until about the age of 25

(“Understanding the Teen Brain “, n.d., p. 1. Kids can think logically so by the time they’re fifteen and sixteen they really do know how to think logically but they don’t make logical decisions. This is because of the lack of formation within the executive function of the brain. If a teen is injured during this stage of their developmental years, it could possibly be devastating for them. This is because it would change the way they view their world and their place in it. This could have serious implications for a teenager. Even a mild brain injury or “MBI”. A “post-concussion” may take 2 years for a teenager to recover. But, a more moderate or severe injury my not be fully realized. This may be true for a teen. A teenager who has experienced a brain injury not have had previous physical disabilities but they “know” that something has changed, something is different about them. The adolescent stage brings its own set of challenges. Even a teen with no previous physical or mental health history has to grapple with an adjustment period. During this adolescent stage of development, the teen is trying to find out who they are, where they fit in and how to cope with peer pressures. A teenager’s goal at this stage of their adolescent years is to find out who they are. It’s hard to imagine at the age of 16 or 17 how a brain injury can change your life drastically. As a teen, they have begun to find their place in school, their place with friends and family . They may bet thinking about college or a career, what they want to do with their life and an injury of this magnitude completely changes them, forever. The injury changes the way they think, the way they react, the way they normally would look at a situation. Although they may not understand fully, they know that something is different but may find it difficult to admit because their goal is to fit in. They may be desperately trying to find out who they are and struggle with their new reality, one don’t fully comprehend. Some way, something has changed you. They may get to a point where they don’t even know who they are anymore.. Friends are acting differently towards them (be it real or imagined), parents react differently to them. Tasks that once completed almost effortlessly with no problem or much though given to it, becomes a struggle. Concepts and mechanics of ADL’s become arduous. Things that they could control before, now they can’t. Frustration sets in and the teen starts to act out in ways they never would have. Situations they and tasks once mastered, becomes a chore. Their study habits have changed. They may not have had to study hard and tests may have been a breeze for them previously. But not now. Words don’t seem to make sense any more. The star athlete has hand- eye coordination problems as well as following complex schemes from playbooks. Moderate Brain Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injuries are devastating for adolescents up to the age of 25 at this stage of their development.

Functions of the Lobes of the Brain

The frontal lobe the parietal lobe the temporal lobe occipital and the cerebellum associated with the frontal lobe or various control they control certain of our behaviors and when is injured that a certain consequences changes that are seen when there is an injury to frontal lobe include problems with sequencing, difficulty making decisions or “perseveration”. Someone can experience decisions people experienced decreased attention, changed personality, problem-solving difficulties, a decrease in their ability to verbally express oneself. A lack of spontaneity and uncontrollable emotions, social and sexual behaviors decreased initiation of voluntary movements. The changes that we see when temporal lobe is injured is that people a problem understanding the spoken word. They have problems with selective attention. There can also be sexuality changes. sexuality changes. A person with a temporal lobe injury may be found to persistently talk. With a temporal lobe injury, there is an increase in aggressive behavior. They have problems recognizing faces, identifying objects and categorizing them.

The parietal lobe is an area of the brain that where there is a higher level of functioning. Injury to the parietal lobe can cause difficulty naming objects. There can be problems processing their tactile sensations (the sense of touch) and problems processing and understanding what their fingers are telling them. A person’s academic skill set declines as a result of an injury to this part of the brain. Things that they were easily able to do in the workplace or in the academic setting from a cognitive standpoint are now diminished or gone. There’s also confusion between the left and the right, a loss of hand eye coordination and a decrease orientation of where the body is from a spatial standpoint. Damages to the occipital lobe is where issues of vision defects, the loss of the visual field. One may also have problems visually locating objects. Importantly, they may also have problems identifying colors. They may also have distorted vision and even hallucinations. They can also have what some call “word blindness


There is an additional challenge of the inability to perceive the way objects move. It would not be farfetched to connect problems with reading and writing in light of an injury of this magnitude. One may experience an overall slowing of our brains processing visual information. Now for the cerebellum, the area located in the back at the base of the brain and on top of the spinal column. With the cerebellum, there are different things that are more like areas of specialty, things that our cerebellum does for us each and every day. It controls the gross and fine motor coordination. When we decide, we want to reach out and grab a jar off the shelf, we put our arm out and do it. That’s the cerebellum in action. We are balancing our equilibrium, the ability to stand up and not fall over. The cerebellum gives us the ability to be able to ride a skateboard, bicycle or to go for a jog down the block. Our postural (causes dizziness from standing up too fast)control and our eye movements, moving our eyes back and forth up and down and utilizing our eyes to obtain visual information so that it can be processed by our brain. The brainstemcontrols so much of what happens in our body. It controls so many of the different functions that allow us to survive as human beings. It is an area of the brain that really, we take for granted and we should be able to take it for granted. But, when it becomes injured through an accident or whatever, the brainstem and the injuries that flow from that have horrible consequences. When a person has an injury to the brainstem we see the damage to the regulation of our ability to hold our body temperature. It needs to be kept at a healthy temperature as opposed to getting too hot or too cold. We can lose the ability with an injury to the brainstem, efficient and effective management of our heart rate or the rate at which we breathe. Someone with injuries to their brainstem also experience problems with balance and their movement. They have problems with swallowing food and liquid, something each of us should be able to take for granted but an injury to the brainstem would revoke that privilege. Brainstem injuries classically can be associated with symptoms of vertigo where the world spins. Often, it’s uncontrollable and unfixable. There’s dizziness and nausea.

In summary, the different lobes of the brain carry out many cognitive behavioral and social functions in terms of all the different aspects of our physical life of our emotional life. I have summarized the lobes of the brain to illustrate the way we think, the way to process information, down to larger impacts of injuries to the brain. Talking about the brainstem illustrated functions of how we swallow food, how our body regulates our temperature and so on. The key point in describing the different areas of the brain and the different functions can be summed up this way. When any of the lobes of our brain are, damaged or injured either by accident, by a driver, by a drug, or by a Dr there are horrible consequences that are inescapable.


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Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

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Bay, E., & Mclean, S. A. (2007). Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

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