is an important organ that is involved in almost everything we do. Because of this, a brain injury
can result in a wide range of effects. These can vary greatly from one person to another, depending on the type and severity of the injury.
It is helpful to distinguish between the initial effects
(which occur immediately following the injury) and longer term effects.
Generally a brain injury will lead to a change in the level of a person’s consciousness, including a period where the person is completely unconscious or in a coma. The length of unconsciousness may vary from a few seconds to many months. The longer the period of unconsciousness the more severe the brain injury is likely to be.
When the person regains consciousness, they may seem confused, have difficulty communicating and remembering, and feel generally disoriented. During this period, family and loved ones play an important role in reassuring the person and providing a familiar environment.
Long term effects and rehabilitation
Over time, the longer term effects of the injury will start to become apparent. In the early stages it is difficult to know how much recovery will occur and how long it will take.
The long term effects of brain injury can be divided into three categories: physical; cognitive, and; emotional and behavioural.
Brain injury can cause problems with movement and sensory abilities such as sight, touch and taste. For some people, loss of control over movement can mean they need a wheelchair, while others may experience a lack of coordination that causes them to walk with a different gait. Brain injury can also affect control over facial and throat muscles and cause difficulties with speaking or swallowing.
Often a brain injury will create problems with thinking, learning, remembering, concentrating, solving problems or speaking. Different mental abilities are located in different parts of the brain, so the type, location and severity of the injury will determine how the person is affected.
Emotional and behavioural effects
People may experience emotions differently after a brain injury. Commonly, this can occur as rapid changes in a person’s emotional state, such as going from sadness to happiness; laughing to crying. People may also find their reactions to situations after brain injury are different to what they would have been before their brain injury.
There is often overlap between emotional and behavioural changes, for example a person’s different emotional experiences may trigger inappropriate or unusual reactions. People may become much more impulsive, aggressive and even sexually disinhibited. Alternatively they may become more placid or have no obvious change at all. Many of these behaviours may resolve through the recovery process, but sometimes the problems may continue and require further rehabilitation to overcome.