Memory Loss and Brain Injuries

By: Peter Kent

When most people think of brain injuries, memory loss is one of the most common things that come to mind. Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI include mild to severe memory loss, which is commonly referred to as amnesia. This can be a temporary condition, or a permanent one with more serious brain injuries.

Temporary Memory Loss and TBI

Some traumatic brain injury-related amnesia is temporary; such patients are usually unable to recall what happened directly before, during and after their accidents. This is often caused by the brain swelling as an effect of the sustained damage; this is also known as an edema. Because the brain has been pushed against the skull, even parts that were not directly injured are unable to function. As the swelling goes down, the patient's memory returns, often slowly over a period of weeks, months or even years. Some patients who suffered from a traumatic brain injury may respond emotionally by experiencing temporary memory loss.

Other, less common, types of memory loss stemming from traumatic brain injury are fixed. These result from damage to the nerves and axons (connections between nerves) of the brain itself. Because the brain cannot heal itself like an arm or a leg, any function that is damaged during a TBI is permanently impaired unless the brain can learn to perform that function differently. Fixed amnesia may include inability to remember events before the injury, or loss of memory of the meanings of certain things, such as words or smells or objects. Less commonly, a person may not remember skills he or she had before the TBI.

Brain Damage and Anteretrograde Amnesia

A patient with TBI may also develop anteretrograde amnesia -- an inability to form memories of events that happened after the injury. The reason for this is not well understood, but an October 2006 study by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that TBIs reduce the levels of a protein in the brain that helps it balance its activity. Without enough of that protein, the brain can "overload," the researchers said, interfering with memory formation, particularly the ability to learn new things.

Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients with Amnesia

There is no treatment for memory loss caused by a traumatic brain injury; if the memory does not come back on its own, it is gone forever. Fortunately, a study published in the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology called Neurology depicted encouraging results in patients suffering from TBIs with anteretrograde memory loss who took a drug called rivastigmine. The drug, which is sold to Alzheimer's disease patients under the brand name Exelon, helped patients with moderate to severe memory loss score better on memory tests than another group of patients that took placebos. Patients who had only mild memory loss did not give as good of results. If you suffer from traumatic brain injury-related memory problems, you may wish to contact an experienced TBI attorney to discuss your options, which may include filing a brain injury lawsuit in order to gain compensation for your medical costs.

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