What Is A Brain Injury?

The following is a guest post from Robert Traister of the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), a Nutcase partner in loving all brains. This is the third of four posts from BIAA this March (Brain Injury Awareness Month), to cover some of the issues BIAA works on all year-round. Flickr Photo Credit: Alan Ajifo

To understand what happens when the brain is injured, it is important to understand how a healthy brain functions. The brain is enclosed inside the skull, which acts as a protective covering for the soft brain tissue. Wearing a helmet adds another layer of protection for the brain, which is why it’s important to wear a helmet while enjoying activities where you could fall or sustain a blow to the head.

The brain is made up of nerve cells called neurons, and they form pathways throughout the brain. These pathways carry messages to various parts of the brain that the brain then uses to perform functions, such as:

  • Coordinating breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism
  • Thought processing
  • Body movements
  • Personality
  • Behavior, and
  • The senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch).


Each part of the brain serves a specific function and links with other parts of the brain to form more complex functions. All parts of the brain need to be working well in order for the brain to work well. An injury to the brain can significantly disrupt its ability to function.

 When the brain is injured, the functions of the neurons, nerve pathways, or sections of the brain can all be affected. If the neurons and nerve pathways are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body.

A brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature, blood pressure, and control over the bowels and bladder. These changes can be temporary or permanent and may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

Injuries of the left side of the brain can cause:

  • Difficulties in understanding language
  • Difficulties in speaking or verbal output
  • Catastrophic reactions (depression, anxiety)
  • Verbal memory deficits
  • Impaired logic
  • Sequencing difficulties
  • Decreased control over the right side of the body.

Injuries of the right side of the brain can cause:

  • Visual-spatial impairment
  • Visual memory deficits
  • Left neglect (inattention to the left side of the body)
  • Decreased awareness of deficits
  • Altered creativity and music perception
  • Loss of “the big picture” type of thinking
  • Decreased control over the left side of the body.

Diffuse Brain Injury (The injuries are scattered throughout both sides of the brain) can cause:

  • Reduced thinking speed
  • Confusion
  • Reduced attention and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired cognitive (thinking) skills in all areas

For more information about brain injury, visit the Brain Injury Association of America’s (BIAA) website at www.biausa.org.

Don’t forget that if you buy a Nutcase helmet during the month of March, Nutcase will donate $2 from your purchase to  BIAA to help us bring help, hope, and healing to the 5.3 million Americans who are living with brain injuries. We’re also matching donations from you (up to $1,000) at bit.ly/biadonation.

Photo credit Steve and Shanon Lawson via flickr.