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Concussion/Traumatic Brain Injury

Concussions (mild traumatic brain injuries) are the most common and least serious type of brain injury. Contrary to popular belief, concussions can occur with or without a loss of consciousness.

When the head receives a blow or is violently shaken, the brain, which is comprised of soft, gelatinous tissue, can “slosh” back and forth, hitting the inside walls of the skull. That movement can cause damage to the brain’s tissue and disrupt normal cognitive function.

These are some common physical, mental, and emotional symptoms a person may experience after a concussion. Any of following symptoms may be a sign of traumatic brain injury:

  • Periods of confusion/feeling dazed
  • Increased errors in daily life
  • Increased irritability
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Short term memory problems
  • Sluggishness/slowed thinking
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Frequent anger
  • Getting lost more often
  • Worsening multi-tasking abilities
  • Decreased thought clarity
  • Fatigue
  • Clumsiness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Ringing in ears

For most people, these symptoms resolve within three months. However, if your symptoms continue to bother you, your physician may refer you to a clinical neuropsychologist for a neuropsychological evaluation.

Neuropsychologists have two main roles in helping to treat patients who have sustained concussions:

Assessment: During a neuropsychological evaluation, you will be asked questions about your medical and developmental history. Any current medications that you are taking will be noted, and how the injury and your symptoms have impacted your daily life will also be discussed. You will then be administered a series of pencil and paper and computerized tests that assess memory, attention, decision-making, reasoning abilities, and other cognitive skills. You will also be asked to fill out questionnaires that assess your mood and personality. The data collected is then analyzed by comparing your performance to the performance of your peers. The results help the neuropsychologist to identify ongoing cognitive difficulties. Results of a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation are also useful in documenting improvement over time.

Recommendations: Based on the results of the evaluation, the neuropsychologist can provide you with recommendations. These can include compensatory strategies and recommendations for further treatment consultations and interventions. The neuropsychologist will also provide you with psychoeducation about common concussive symptoms and the nature of recovery from those symptoms.