Brain Compensates After Injury

Injured Areas of the Brain Draw on Other Areas for Function

A recent study supports the Brain's compensating for itself after injury.  I remember learning long ago that a blind person has a greater hearing ability than a person who is not blind.  Well now I have come across a study that seems to support that.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI), using a combination of neural imaging methods, investigated how the human brain adapts to injury. The research is published in Cerebral Cortex, (R. A. Mason, C. S. Prat, M. A. Just. Neurocognitive Brain Response to Transient Impairment of Wernicke's Area. Cerebral Cortex, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhs423)  The findings show that when one brain area loses functionality, a "back-up" team of secondary brain areas immediately activates, replacing the unavailable area.

This has far reaching implications.  For instance, a situation I deal with frequently in my practice is a client who sustained a traumatic brain injury but was walking and talking afterward.  Such behavior raises significant questions from insurance companies and their lawyers as to whether a brain injury occurred.  But these new findings provide an answer.  Walking and Talking after an injury does NOT rule out traumatic brain injury.

Marcel Just, one of the scientists involved in the study, states:

"The human brain has a remarkable ability to adapt to various types of trauma, such as traumatic brain injury and stroke, making it possible for people to continue functioning after key brain areas have been damaged....It is now clear how the brain can naturally rebound from injuries and gives us indications of how individuals can train their brains to be prepared for easier recovery. The secret is to develop alternative thinking styles, the way a switch-hitter develops alternative batting styles. Then, if a muscle in one arm is injured, they can use the batting style that relies more on the uninjured arm."

Read more about the findings. 


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