Memory and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)

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1st Dec 2010

Most of us typically think of ourselves as having a “good” or “bad” memory, and as we age often we feel that our memory isn’t as good as it once had been. As you most likely already know, there are different types of memory: verbal and visual. Verbal information is stored in the left hemisphere and visual information is stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. There is also your immediate memory (information that is briefly saved), short-term memory (information you remember after 30 minutes) and long-term memory (information we recall after a day, week or years).

Any brain function can be disrupted by a traumatic brain injury (TBI), resulting in difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance, depression, irritability, emotional outbursts, and slowed thinking. Memory loss is one of the most common cognitive side effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), even mild TBI can result in memory loss.

In general, information flows in through the middle of our brain and branches out like a tree, first going through a filtration process. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes swelling, which puts pressure on the middle areas of the brain obstructing the flow of information, or access to our memories. A TBI patient’s memory typically returns as the swelling goes down over a period of weeks or even months. Temporary memory loss may also be an emotional response to the stressful events surrounding a TBI. Other times memory is more seriously affected and in all cases there are strategies that may help the patient and their memory:

  • Work with a memory specialist – your memory is similar to the other muscles in your body, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
  • Get organized – specific places for items and routines helps our memory.
  • Break it down – learn small bits at a time instead of a whole string of information (think phone numbers, a chunk of three numbers, three numbers, four numbers).
  • Use Association – organize similar information together
  • Use a daily planner – write everything down in one spot while it is fresh in your mind.
  • Make a “To Do” list

A traumatic brain injury is both psychically and emotionally shocking on the system, and memory loss can be very upsetting. With strategies, support, and frequently time the situation can be improved upon. Please consult the Frequently Asked Questions page as a resource to common questions associated with traumatic brain injury such as: how is a brain injury diagnosed and what are the common causes of traumatic brain injury?

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