Brain and Spine Injury Law Blog

Brain and Spine Injury Law Blog

From Traumatic Brain Injury to Savant

Posted in Age & Alzheimer's Issues, Books, Articles, and Literature, Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Injury Attorney, Las Vegas Motorcycle Attorney, Las Vegas Negligent or Inadequate Security Attorney, Las Vegas Truck Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Wrongful Death Attorney, Personal Injury, Psychiatric & Psychological Issues, Publications, The Human Brain, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

I have been posting to this blog items and information I come across regarding Traumatic Brain Injury.  While reading professional journals, articles, and Scientific literature, I share things of interest.  One of those topics includes the unique and rare situation where a concussion can actually cause the brain to exhibit genius level processing.  (Of course that does not take away from the other negative signs, symptoms, and consequences of traumatic brain injury) Think of the popular movie Rainman.  A concussion or stroke does not usually enhance cognitive ability.

Darold Treffert, a physician who has studied savantism for many years, has chronicled the ways that people with no artistic interest or talent can suddenly develop a passion for painting or music after experiencing head trauma or other types of brain insult.

Recently, in the August 2014 issue of Scientific American, an article entitled  Accidental Genius was published. The articles talks about Jason Padgett who suffered a “severe head injury.” As a consequence, he was able to visualize and draw intricate geometrical shapes. He went on to develop a passion for math, physics, and drawing geometric shapes after he sustained a concussion following an assault.  Previously math-adverse, college dropout, Padgett now takes advance courses in math to better understand the geometric shapes he can draw.

Other case studies include:

  • Tommy McHugh – at 51, and with no particular interest in poetry, he suffered a hemorrhage in the lining of the skull. After the injury he went on to fill notebooks with poems.
  • Orlando Serrel – was knocked out by a baseball and developed a skill of doing calendar calculations.  He could determine the day of the week of any day since the injury occured.  He also recalls the weather everyday since his injury.
  • Derek Amato – 40 year old corporate trainer with no special interest in music, dove into the shallow end of a pool and sustained a severe concussion.  Following his discharge from the hospital, he became inexplicably drawn to the piano.
  • Tony Cicoria – orthopedic surgeon was hit by lightning and resuscitated by a nurse. He developed a consuming obsession with classical music after previously having no interest in that kind of music.
Lobes of the brain

Lobes of the brain

Neurologist, Bruce Miller, of the University of California, San Francisco, has been studying FTD.  FTD stands for frontal temporal dementia. It differs from Alzheimer’s dementia in that the degenerative process affects only the frontal lobes and not wider areas of the brain.

Researchers would like to unlock the key to obtaining acquired savantism, without the concussion.   How to bring out the inner-savant?   Various diagnostic tests including DTI, (diffuse tensor imaging), and DTT (Diffuse Tensor Tracking), as well as PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and NIRS (Near Infrared Spectroscopy) are able to capture brain activity during the carrying out of creative tasks.

The question is whether these studies are worth pursuing.

Acquired savantism provides strong evidence that a deep well of brain potential resides within all of us.  The challenge now is to find the best ways to tap into our inner savant – that little bit of Rain Man – while keeping the rest of our mental facilities intact.

Fish Oil and Omega-3 May Benefit Alcohol Abusers

Posted in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Omega-3 fish oil might help protect against alcohol-related neurodamage and the risk of eventual dementia, according to a study. Many human studies have shown that long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage and increases the risk of dementia. The new study found that in brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and neuronal cell death.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Repairing an Injured Spinal Cord

Posted in Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Injury Attorney, Las Vegas Motorcycle Attorney, Las Vegas Negligent or Inadequate Security Attorney, Las Vegas Truck Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Wrongful Death Attorney, Personal Injury, Spine Injury, Back Injury, Neck Injury and Bone Injury

Section of Spinal Cord

Frogs, dogs, whales, snails can all do it, but humans and primates can’t. Regrow nerves after an injury, that is — while many animals have this ability, humans don’t.  Humans cannot grow new nerves to replace damaged ones.

But new research suggests that a small molecule may be able to convince damaged nerves to grow and effectively rewire circuits. Such a feat could eventually lead to therapies for the thousands of Americans with severe spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Scientists hope to borrow strategy from simpler animals to repair damaged spinal cord nerves in humans.

Computer Brain

Posted in Brain Injury News and Event Update, Las Vegas Injury Attorney, The Human Brain

Computers and Brains.  Those are two of my favorite things.  And recently I found in the New York Times , the Wallstreet Journal and CNN Money, articles on how IBM builds a brain out of computer chips.  The new chip can sense, taste, feel, smell, hear and understand its surroundings.  IBM says it has developed a microchip that simulates brain functions to perform calculations. IBM says the chip is a sharp break from the fundamental design used in most computers.

IBM’s research was published in Science magazine Thursday, August 7, 2014.  

The chip was the result of 10 years of research from IBM, $53 million in funding from DARPA, and 200 people working on the project.  All computer chips made today rely on the same general architecture that was outlined nearly 70 years ago. This architecture separates the two primary tasks a chip needs to carry out—processing and memory—into different regions and continuously communicates data back and forth. Though this strategy works well for crunching numbers and running spreadsheets, it’s much less efficient for handling tasks that manage vast amounts of data, such as vision and language processing. But in recent years, researchers around the globe have been pursuing a new approach called neuromorphic computing.

5.4 billion transistors that are wired to emulate a brain with 1 million “neurons” that talk to one another via 256 million “synapses.” The novel chips could revolutionize efforts in everything from helping computers and robots sense their environment to offering new tools to help blind people navigate their surroundings.

The applications are endless, so it seems.  Will the AI lead to the next I-Robot?  Something to think about.


Brain Damage From Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Posted in Las Vegas Injury Attorney

 Brain Damage has been shown in cases of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.  Sounds like a little preaching to the choir.

 A new article in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, discloses findings of brain injured versus non-brain injured individuals.

For the study, 44 people with a mild traumatic brain injury and nine people with a moderate traumatic brain injury were compared to 33 people with no brain injury. All of the participants took tests of their thinking and memory skills. At the same time, they had diffusion tensor imaging scans, a type of MRI scan that is more sensitive than traditional MRI for detecting damage to brain cells and helps map fiber tracts that connect brain regions. The people with brain injuries had their scans an average of six days after the injury. A year later, 23 of those with injuries had another scan and took the cognitive tests again.

Compared to the people with no brain injury, those with injuries had brain damage in brain white matter consisting of disruption to nerve axons, those parts of nerve cells that make up white matter and that allow brain cells to transmit messages to each other.

So goes the myth that "mild" traumatic brain injury has no lasting effects on its victim.

BIAA Sept 2014 Update

Posted in Brain Injury News and Event Update, Las Vegas Injury Attorney, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The Brain Injury Association of America has requested that I pass along the following Legislative Update.

TBI Act Reauthorization

The United States Senate planned to pass TBI Act Reauthorization this week but further action on the bill will be taken in September. BIAA thanks Sens. Harkin (D-Iowa), Alexander (R-TN), Hatch (R-UT) and Casey (D-PA) for their continued leadership on passing this important legislation to the brain injury community.

Assisted Living TBI Pilot Program Extension

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a $16 billion overall to the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday night which included a three year extension to the Assisted Living TBI Pilot Program. Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Extension Act, S.2607. The AL-TBI Extension Act authorizes the continuation of a critical VA program that provides intensive care and rehabilitation to veterans with complex brain injuries. AL-TBI consists of community-based residential/transitional rehabilitation programs around the country in which veterans are immersed in therapies for movement, memory, speech, and gradual community reintegration. This model of care allows veterans facing similar challenges to live together while receiving 24/7 care, which has yielded impressive results and helped rehabilitate hundreds of veterans from severe injuries that are notoriously difficult to treat. BIAA thanks Sens. Booker and Heller for their leadership and to Congress on extending this vital program to our Veterans with TBI.


Brain Implants to Optimize Memory

Posted in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The U.S. military is leading a program to develop brain implants to restore memory to veterans who have suffered brain injuries.  The Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program is a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense charged with developing next-generation technologies for the military. The initiative aims to develop wireless, fully implantable "neuroprosthetics" for service members suffering from traumatic brain injury or illness.


More than 270,000 U.S. veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) since 2000, and the condition affects about 1.7 million civilians in the United States each year, according to DARPA. TBI interferes with the ability to recall memories from before the injury, and also the capacity to form or retain new memories.

Currently, few treatments for TBI-related memory loss exist, but DARPA is trying to change that. Deep brain stimulation, the use of implanted electrodes to deliver electrical signals to specific parts of the brain, has already demonstrated success in treating Parkinson’s disease and other chronic brain conditions. Building on these advances, DARPA is developing new neuroprosthetics to bridge the gap in an injured brain to restore memory function.

There are many different types of memory, but the RAM program will focus on a kind known as declarative memory — knowledge that can be consciously recalled, such as events, times or places.

For example, imagine you need to go to the store. To find it, you need to know where the store is located and what it’s called. A person with a traumatic brain injury often has trouble remembering these basic facts.

The project is being funded by the government and will spill over into the general population as the technology is achieved.

As part of the RAM program, UCLA will receive up to $15 million, and the University of Pennsylvania will receive up to $22.5 million in funding, over a four-year period. In addition, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility located in Livermore, California, will receive up to $2.5 million. The funding will depend on whether the institutions meet a series of technical milestones, ranging from recording neural signals to developing the hardware for chronic implants.

Stay tuned for more.

Brain Cells Regenerate and Allow for Memory

Posted in The Human Brain

The official understanding that brain cells do not regenerate has been longstanding.  Therefore, if you lose it, it stays lost.  During my time studying the brain and traumatic and acquired brain injury these many years, I came to appreciate the issue of "reserves" in the brain and the complexity of repeat trauma reducing reserves.

I came across an article in Scientific American, July 2014, entitled Add Neurons Subtract Anxiety. In it, the authors cite the discovery of brain cell regeneration to Joseph Altman in the 1960s.  Studies in the 1990s revealed that certain brain cells regenerate in two areas of the brain: smell and the hippocampus.

In fact these brain locals and fledgling cells may be involved…

In helping to record memories in a way that distinguishes them as unique, preventing them from blurring, one into the next.  This realization could lead to novel approaches to treating a variety of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because people who suffer from such conditions have trouble telling the difference between situations that merit fear and those that are innocuous.

High Blood Pressure,Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Brain

Posted in The Human Brain

High Blood Pressure increases the chances of cardiac damage. But new findings reveal High Blood Pressure may also be damaging the brain. As we get older those chances increase.

High blood pressure in middle age plays a critical role in whether blood pressure in old age may affect memory and thinking, research shows. The study found that the association of blood pressure in old age to brain measures depended on a history of blood pressure in middle age. Higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure were associated with increased risk of brain lesions and tiny brain bleeds. This was most noticeable in people without a history of high blood pressure in middle age.

AAJ Baltimore 2014

Posted in Brain Injury News and Event Update, Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Injury Attorney, Las Vegas Motorcycle Attorney, Las Vegas Negligent or Inadequate Security Attorney, Las Vegas Truck Accident Attorney, Las Vegas Wrongful Death Attorney, Personal Injury, Resources, Spine Injury, Back Injury, Neck Injury and Bone Injury, The Human Brain, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

I was honored to accept an invitation to make a presentation at this week’s American Association of Justice Annual Convention.  My presentation was on Hotel Security Trends.  The American Association of Justice is the largest grouping of consumer attorneys in the country.  This year’s convention was in Baltimore at the Convention Center.

I am also happy and honored to report that I was elected Secretary of the Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group. I was also elected Secretary/Treasurer of the Inadequate Security Litigation Group. It will be an eventful year for me as an officer of these two groups and hopefully my involvement will continue to keep me on the cutting edge of issues related to both groups.