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By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Recently, researchers from the department of sport science at the University of Innsbruck in Austria stood on the slopes at a local ski resort and trained a radar gun on a group of about 500 skiers and snowboarders, each of whom had completed a lengthy personality questionnaire about whether he or she tended to be cautious or a risk taker. The researchers had asked their volunteers to wear their normal ski gear and schuss or ride down the slopes at their preferred speed. Although they hadn’t informed the volunteers, their primary aim was to determine whether wearing a helmet increased people’s willingness to take risks, in which case helmets could actually decrease safety on the slopes. What they found was reassuring. To many of us who hit the slopes with, in my case, literal regularity — I’m an ungainly novice snowboarder — the value of wearing a helmet can seem self-evident. They protect your head from severe injury. During the Big Air finals at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., this past weekend, for instance, 23-year-old Icelandic snowboarder Halldor Helgason over-rotated on a triple back flip, landed head-first on the snow, and was briefly knocked unconscious. But like the other competitors he was wearing a helmet, and didn’t fracture his skull. Indeed, studies have concluded that helmets reduce the risk of a serious head injury by as much as 60 percent. But a surprising number of safety experts and snowsport enthusiasts remain unconvinced that helmets reduce overall injury risk. Why? A telling 2009 survey of ski patrollers from across the country found that 77 percent did not wear helmets because they worried that the headgear could reduce their peripheral vision, hearing and response times, making them slower and clumsier. In addition, many worried that if they wore helmets, less-adept skiers and snowboarders might do likewise, feel invulnerable and engage in riskier behavior on the slopes. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17739 - Posted: 01.30.2013

By BENJAMIN HOFFMAN NEW ORLEANS — It has become a staple of Super Bowl week, as much a part of the pregame to the N.F.L.’s biggest event as the annual media day: a discussion of how football is being affected by head injuries and the mounting evidence that long-term brain damage can be linked to injuries sustained on the field. Years ago, players rarely spoke about the issue and league officials dismissed suggestions that on-field injuries could lead to life-altering health problems. Now, however, the league is facing lawsuits from thousands of former players, rules are being instituted in an attempt to diminish injuries on the field and even President Obama has said that the way football is played will have to change. This week, Bernard Pollard, a hard-hitting safety for the Baltimore Ravens, created a stir by saying that the N.F.L. would not exist in 30 years because of the rules changes designed with safety in mind, but that he also believed there would be a death on the field at some point. At media day Tuesday, players reacted to the comments made by Pollard and Obama, with some agreeing with Pollard that recent rules changes would change the sport to such an extent that it would be less entertaining and lead to a loss of popularity. Pollard stood by his comments. He added, however, that while he was comfortable with the physical risk he was taking by playing football, he was not sure he would want future generations, including his 4-year-old son, to follow his example. “My whole stance right now is that I don’t want him to play football,” Pollard said. “Football has been good to me. It has been my outlet. God has blessed me with a tremendous talent to be able to play this game. But we want our kids to have things better than us.” He said he did not want his son to go through the aches and pains caused by the physicality of the game. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17738 - Posted: 01.30.2013

By Lisa Flam A New Hampshire toddler who suffered a nightmarish injury when a pencil impaled her eye and became lodged in her head was saved by a remarkable turn of good fortune: The pencil that penetrated deep into her brain took a near-perfect path that left her virtually unscathed. The girl, 20-month-old Olivia Smith, survived not only the pencil’s pushing through her brain, but also its painstaking and dangerous, yet flawless removal at Boston Children’s Hospital, where the pencil was slowly pulled out by hand earlier this month. “It’s beyond belief how lucky she was,” said one of her doctors, Dr. Darren Orbach. “Her prognosis is great. I would expect her to be a normal kid at this point.” Olivia’s improbable tale began on Jan. 6, when she was coloring at home in New Boston, N.H., lost her balance and fell onto the pencil, said Orbach, chief of interventional and neurointerventional radiology at Children’s. When her mother picked her up to comfort her, she saw a small piece of the orange colored pencil sticking out from her right eye. “I thought the pencil had broken or something,” Olivia’s mother, Susie Smith, told NBC affiliate WHDH. “I thought there was no way that whole pencil was through her head.” © 2013 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17726 - Posted: 01.29.2013

By BRETT MICHAEL DYKES JEFFERSON, La. — “He liked to hit people,” Carlene Dempsey said flatly. “He didn’t care if he got his bell rung.” She was referring to her Falstaffian husband, Tom Dempsey, the former N.F.L. kicker born without toes on his right foot who in November 1970 — after a long night of drinking and debauchery in the French Quarter of New Orleans — set the league record for the longest field goal in a regular-season game. The 63-yard kick lifted the New Orleans Saints to a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions, and in the process helped transform Dempsey into a folk hero in the city hosting the Super Bowl on Sunday, the rare Saints player to hold a prominent N.F.L. record before the Sean Payton era. Now 66, Dempsey sat recently with his wife at the dining room table in the modest 1,500-square-foot home they share with their daughter, Ashley, and their grandson, Dylan, in this New Orleans suburb. It quickly became apparent that when reflecting upon his football career, Dempsey seemed to take more delight discussing the hits he had delivered than the kicks he had made. He wistfully recalled how, in high school and college, if his coaches wanted someone on the opposing team knocked out, they usually called on him to deliver a teeth-rattling hit. And his eyes twinkled with glee when he talked about how the coaches he played for over the course of his 10-year N.F.L. career with the Saints, the Eagles, the Rams, the Oilers and the Bills would sometimes call on him to be the wedge buster — football’s version of a kamikaze pilot — on kickoffs. “I would hit anybody,” Dempsey boasted, echoing the sentiment of Carlene, his wife of more than 40 years. “I didn’t care.” © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17721 - Posted: 01.28.2013

By MARY PILON and KEN BELSON The former N.F.L. linebacker Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma when he committed suicide in the spring, the National Institutes of Health said Thursday. The findings were consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease widely connected to athletes who have absorbed frequent blows to the head, the N.I.H. said in a statement. Seau is the latest and most prominent player to be associated with the disease, which has bedeviled football in recent years as a proliferation of studies has exposed the possible long-term cognitive impact of head injuries sustained on the field. “The type of findings seen in Mr. Seau’s brain have been recently reported in autopsies of individuals with exposure to repetitive head injury,” the N.I.H. said, “including professional and amateur athletes who played contact sports, individuals with multiple concussions, and veterans exposed to blast injury and other trauma.” Since C.T.E. was diagnosed in the brain of the former Eagles defensive back Andre Waters after his suicide in 2006, the disease has been found in nearly every former player whose brain was examined posthumously. (C.T.E. can be diagnosed only posthumously.) Researchers at Boston University, who pioneered the study of C.T.E., have found it in 33 of the 34 brains of former N.F.L. players they have examined. The N.I.H. began its examination of Seau’s brain tissue in July. In addition to being reviewed by two federal neuropathologists, Seau’s brain was reviewed by three outside neuropathology experts who did not have knowledge of the source of the tissue. Upon initial examination “the brain looked normal,” according to the N.I.H. It was not until doctors looked under the microscope and used staining techniques that the C.T.E. abnormalities were seen. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17668 - Posted: 01.12.2013

By KEN BELSON The growing evidence of a link between head trauma and long-term, degenerative brain disease was amplified in an extensive study of athletes, military veterans and others who absorbed repeated hits to the head, according to new findings published in the scientific journal Brain. The study, which included brain samples taken posthumously from 85 people who had histories of repeated mild traumatic brain injury, added to the mounting body of research revealing the possible consequences of routine hits to the head in sports like football and hockey. The possibility that such mild head trauma could result in long-term cognitive impairment has come to vex sports officials, team doctors, athletes and parents in recent years. Of the group of 85 people, 80 percent (68 men) — nearly all of whom played sports — showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative and incurable disease whose symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia. Among the group found to have C.T.E., 50 were football players, including 33 who played in the N.F.L. Among them were stars like Dave Duerson, Cookie Gilchrist and John Mackey. Many of the players were linemen and running backs, positions that tend to have more contact with opponents. Six high school football players, nine college football players, seven pro boxers and four N.H.L. players, including Derek Boogaard, the former hockey enforcer who died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and painkillers, also showed signs of C.T.E. The study also included 21 veterans, most of whom were also athletes, who showed signs of C.T.E. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17565 - Posted: 12.03.2012

By ANNE EISENBERG FOOTBALL teams of the future — even high school squads on limited budgets — may someday have a new tool to check players for brain injuries. It’s a special form of headgear, packed with sensors that read the brain waves of athletes after they come off the field, thus detecting changes caused by the trauma of hard knocks. The compact, portable sensors decipher neural activity by measuring changes in the brain’s tiny magnetic field. These small magnetometers — still in the laboratory and in prototype — have yet to be tried on athletes. But their potential is enormous for brain imaging and for inexpensive monitoring of brain diseases, as well as for many other applications like the control of prosthetics, said Dr. José Luis Contreras-Vidal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston. Dr. Contreras-Vidal’s research includes work on a system that will use brain signals to control prosthetic legs. “This is a transformative technology” that could make brain interfaces available at a small cost, he said. “We could potentially use these devices to record in real time brain waves that could be analyzed for specific diseases such as Alzheimer’s, or the progression of these diseases.” The research is occurring at a time of growing concern about collisions and subsequent brain injuries in sports — and the dire effects that may show up only many years later. But an inexpensive system for spotting changes in brain behavior could play an important safety role one day in boxing, football and many other sports. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17207 - Posted: 08.27.2012

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Much has been studied and reported, particularly in this newspaper, about the short-term effects of concussions on young athletes, as well as the potential longer-term outcomes for professional athletes who engage in high-level contact sports like football and ice hockey for many years, putting themselves at risk for multiple concussions and the lesser but still consequential subconcussive injuries. But until recently, far less has been understood about the long-term implications, if any, of concussions experienced years ago by recreational athletes. Does a 55-year-old man who played high school football in the ’70s and perhaps grew dizzy or “had his bell rung” after a tackle or two need to worry about the state of his brain today, even if he never had a formal diagnosis of concussion? Or do I, because I bounced my head hard against the slopes several times while learning to snowboard 10 years ago? The emerging answer, according to recent research, would seem to be a cautious “probably not,” although there may be reason to monitor how easily names and places come to mind. For a study published in May in the journal Cerebral Cortex, researchers at the University of Montreal examined the brains of a group of healthy, middle-aged former athletes, all of whom had played contact sports in college about 30 years ago and some of whom had sustained concussions while doing so. In the years since, the athletes had stopped competing but had remained physically active. None complained of failing memories or other symptoms of cognitive impairment — or at least, not more so than any group of 50- and 60-year-olds would be expected to complain. Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17029 - Posted: 07.12.2012

By Jillian Eugenios Yasel Lopez, 16, was fishing with a friend in Miami when their three-foot spear gun went off unexpectedly, piercing Lopez through his head. Doctors are calling his survival from the accident, nearly two weeks ago, a miracle. The gun went off unexpectedly when the teenagers were loading it with a spear, sending it straight into Lopez's skull, Tamron Hall reported on TODAY Monday. The force of the impact was so strong it knocked him into the water. Acting quickly, his friend called 911 and Lopez was soon airlifted to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital where doctors raced to save him. Doctors revealed details Monday about Lopez's ordeal, and how they worked to save his life. “We used a high-speed drill to drill the bone at either end to create an opening through which we could remove the spear,” one of the doctors told reporters. They first had to cut the spear to prevent it from moving and allow doctors to do tests. After the spear was cut, doctors said they were able to plan the surgery: “We were able to position him laying with his left side down, right side up, and then we were able to open a large incision." Dr. George Garcia, who helped to save Lopez's life, said that Lopez was awake and interacting with hospital staff when he arrived, though he became agitated and panicky. “We didn't know if that was a result of the injury to his brain or if he was just scared or in a lot of pain.” Dr. Garcia said that that the fact that Lopez was lucid throughout gave the doctors confidence the teenager would survive. © 2012 msnbc.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16938 - Posted: 06.20.2012

By DAVID TULLER Late one evening last December, 18-year-old Michelle Vaquero was crossing a busy street in San Jose, Calif., when a car slammed into her. She landed more than 30 feet away. An ambulance rushed her to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed traumatic brain injury. Miriam Richards, Ms. Vaquero’s mother, said that doctors at first offered little cause for optimism. “The impact was so severe that they didn’t give us any hope,” she said. “They didn’t tell us she’d be fine. They didn’t know how bad it was.” Ms. Vaquero has been steadily recovering since the accident, and there is reason for Ms. Richards to hope that progress will continue. Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, Ms. Vaquero was enrolled in a study examining whether a surprising new treatment could minimize the damage to her brain: a three-day infusion of progesterone, the reproductive hormone. The study, financed by the National Institutes of Health and overseen by Emory University in Atlanta, is designed to test the hypothesis that the hormone can reduce mortality and disability if administered right after a traumatic brain injury. Patients must begin the infusion within four hours of the injury, with outcomes assessed after six months. The study is one of two large trials of progesterone that have generated excitement among doctors because no medications have been approved for preventing the worst outcomes associated with serious brain injuries. Dr. David Gordon, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx who is not involved in the research, said that he has “some measure of cautious optimism” about progesterone. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 16933 - Posted: 06.19.2012

By Bill Briggs I had done all my crying weeks before. But pacing a hospital hallway -- as nurses changed the diapers of my silent, blank-faced, 20-year-old daughter in the room behind me -- I asked my wife for a hug. I don’t request many. I try to give more hugs than I get. But that August night, I yearned for the blonde girl lying in the bed 20 feet away, a respiration machine blowing oxygen through a hole cut into her trachea. Advertise | AdChoices “I miss her voice. I miss her laugh,” I told Nancy -- my wife and Andrea’s stepmom -- as she wrapped her arms around me. “I really just miss Andrea.” One month earlier, on July 26, my cell phone rang as I gobbled a final forkful of dinner in my living room. I didn’t recognize the number. A somber woman asked if I was the father of Andrea Briggs and told me, flatly, that Andrea was in a nearby hospital. Now standing, my knees flinched. I held a corner of my desk for support as I peppered the woman with urgent questions that she wouldn’t answer. “Is she alive? Can you just please tell me if my daughter is alive?” I demanded, my voice rising. “She is in very critical condition,” the woman said. “Come to Denver Health Medical Center as soon as possible.” The nauseous pang in my stomach blended with a strange, detached numbness and I felt like I was walking in someone else’s body. I grabbed my car keys, fully believing I was on my way to say goodbye to my only child. © 2012 msnbc.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16915 - Posted: 06.16.2012

by Jamie Condliffe Soldiers experience high-pressure shock waves and immense forces during explosions in the field, but research suggests brain trauma is caused merely by the sudden head movements. It has been unclear whether trauma from explosions is caused through high-pressure shock waves penetrating the skull, or through another mechanism. Now a team of researchers from Boston University have performed post mortems on soldiers to establish how traumatic brain injury occurs during explosions. Many blast victims develop symptoms consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can cause memory problems, depression and learning difficulties. However, CTE is usually caused by repeated concussions such as those experienced by American football players – not one-off blasts. "The damage in football players has been linked to acceleration forces due to head impact," explains Robin Cleveland, a medical engineer who worked on the project at Boston University before moving to the University of Oxford. "Our goal was to see if the same mechanism was responsible for blast injury." Cleveland and his colleagues performed a post mortem analysis of brains from four soldiers who had experienced blasts. They compared the brains to those of American footballers and a wrestler who all had a history of repetitive concussive injury, as well as with a person with no brain trauma. They found firm evidence of CTE, as indicated by abnormal deposits of the protein tau in the brain of the soldiers, which was indistinguishable from CTE in the athletes. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16810 - Posted: 05.17.2012

By Gary Stix NFL legend Junior Seau died today after reportedly shooting himself in the chest, according to various news reports. What prompted the apparent suicide is still unknown. But Seau’s taking of his own life will inevitably raise questions about a possible role of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disorder that results from repeated concussions and that can produce dementia and other forms of cognitive dysfunction. The NFL has had to contend with a growing incidence of this disorder. Dave Duerson, an NFL safety, committed suicide in 2011 by shooting himself in the chest and directed that his brain be used for research on CTE. Any player in the NFL, and in other contact sports like hockey, probably leaves a long career with some traces of brain injury. But tests will be needed to determine whether Seau merited a clinical diagnosis. No reports have emerged so far that Seau suffered from dementia-like symptoms. An SUV that Seau was driving in 2010 near his home in Oceanside, Calif., went over a cliff that fronted on a beach, according to The Los Angeles Times. The incident occurred following his arrest that year related to suspicion of domestic violence. Seau, a 12-time NFL Pro linebacker following a career as an All-American at University of Southern California, registered 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers, three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and ended his career with the New England Patriots. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 16744 - Posted: 05.03.2012

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent Two research papers published this week throw further light on the health risks of the Taser stun gun. This striking image shows the central issue examined in one of the papers: what happens when one of the two barbed darts fired by a police Taser struck a 27-year-old man on the side of the head. Although Isabel Le Blanc-Louvry and colleagues at the department of forensic medicine at Rouen University Hospital in France do not reveal when or where this occured, they say the victim had been drunk and resisted police requests for his ID. The police fired the pneumatically powered Taser to incapacitate and subdue him - but somehow nobody noticed a dart remained stuck in his head, until he later went to hospital complaining of a persistent headache. In the ER, the dart was found to "have penetrated the frontal part of the skull and damaged the underlying frontal lobe", the team report in Forensic Science International. "We observed that the length of the Taser dart is sufficient to allow brain penetration," they write. The man made a full recovery. The controversial weapon's woes continued in the journal Circulation this week, where cardiologist Douglas Zipes at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis reports that Taser strikes near the heart can kill. In a study of eight cases where cardiac arrest was induced after tasings by US police departments, seven victims died. "Electronic control device stimulation can cause cardiac arrest" due to ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation, he concludes. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16743 - Posted: 05.03.2012

By TIMOTHY PRATT LAS VEGAS — One of the questions Dr. Charles Bernick and his colleagues ask boxers who come to the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health here is, “How many times have you been knocked out cold or gotten a concussion?” Most say, “never.” Then the doctors ask, “How many times have you felt dazed and stunned?” Most say, “many times.” This is part of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, now a year old and with results from 109 fighters — more than have ever been compiled in a single research project. The principal finding: “There are detectable changes in the brain even before symptoms appear,” like memory loss or other changes in cognitive function resulting from repeated blows to the head, Dr. Bernick said. The physical changes, detected by M.R.I. scans, are a reduction in size in the hippocampus and thalamus of the brains of fighters with more than six years in the ring. These parts of the brain deal with such functions as memory and alertness. While those who had fought for more than six years did not exhibit any declines in cognitive function, fighters with more than 12 years in the ring did. Thus, Dr. Bernick’s group concluded, the lag between detectability and physical symptoms probably occurs sometime during those six years. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16706 - Posted: 04.25.2012

Sharon Weinberger Why a U.S. Army soldier suspected of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan did what he did is still unclear, but one thing is certain: his lawyers are likely to invoke emerging science about the effects of war on the brain to aid in his defense. In fact, even before Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' identity was revealed, unnamed US officials were telling major news outlets that the suspect had suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Shortly thereafter, Bales’ lawyer publicly suggested that his client suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), even though it does not appear to have been previously diagnosed. According to Dr. James Giordano, director of the Center for Neurotechnology Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Virginia, TBI manifests itself through a variety of complaints, which may range from mild to moderate. These could include disorientation, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and headaches, as well as a more profound constellation of severe neurological and psychological symptoms, such as impaired impulse control, acting out and aggressive behavior. “What we're seeing is that TBI presents as spectrum disorder with a variety of effects,” says Giordano. In fact, some people make a complete recovery from TBI, while others develop more severe conditions down the road, and it’s difficult to predict which injuries will persist, according to Giordano. “One would think the milder the injury, the less severe the symptoms,” says Giordano. “That’s not always the case.” © 2012 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16545 - Posted: 03.20.2012

By BENEDICT CAREY Daily doses of a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease significantly improved function in severely brain-injured people thought to be beyond the reach of treatment, scientists reported on Wednesday, providing the first rigorous evidence to date that any therapy reliably helps such patients. The improvements were modest, experts said, and hardly amounted to a cure, or a quick means of “waking up” someone who has long been unresponsive. But the progress was meaningful, experts said, and, if replicated, would give rehabilitation doctors something they have never had: a standard treatment for injuries that are not at all standard or predictable in the ways they affect the brain. Some 50,000 to 100,000 Americans live in states of partial consciousness, and perhaps 15,000 in an unresponsive “vegetative” condition. According to the Department of Defense, more than 6,000 veterans have had severe brain injuries since 2000 and would potentially benefit from this therapy. The new report, appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine, gives doctors a solid basis to address such injuries, if not yet a predictable outcome. “This study puts the traumatic brain injury field on the first step of the ladder to developing scientific treatments. We’ve been trying to get there for a long time,” said Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, director of clinical research at the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Rockville, Md., who was not involved in the research. “And there’s no reason to doubt that this therapy would also be effective in people with less severe brain injuries” than in the study. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 16461 - Posted: 03.01.2012

by Sheila Eldred Football players as young as 7 years old sustained an average of 107 hits per player during a single season, the first study to analyze head impact exposure in youth football shows. The hardest of the hits came during practice, not games. The study, published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, analyzed just seven kids, but the findings helped secure funding for a much larger study announced this week. Head impact exposure in high school and college athletes has been well documented. While this study suggests that youth football players sustain less frequent hits, the level of acceleration can reach the same level measured in adults -- which is high enough to cause concussions. "This new study for 2012 allows for a dramatically increased sample size [approximately 50,000 head impacts will likely be recorded] and head exposure mapping for all age groups,” said Stefan Duma, department head of the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, which directs the project. To study the biomechanics of impacts, researchers will use medical imaging protocols combined with brain computer modeling. The initial study also led to the development of the National Impact Database, containing the first safety rating system for adult football helmets. © 2012 Discovery Communications, LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16439 - Posted: 02.27.2012

By Katherine Harmon A car accident, a rough tackle, an unexpected tumble. The number of ways to bang up the brain are almost as numerous as the people who sustain these injuries. And only recently has it become clear just how damaging a seemingly minor knock can be. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is no longer just a condition acknowledged in military personnel or football players and other professional athletes. Each year some 1.7 million civilians will suffer an injury that disrupts the function of their brains, qualifying it as a TBI. About 8.5 percent of U.S. non-incarcerated adults have a history of TBI, and about 2 percent of the greater population is currently suffering from some sort of disability because of their injury. In prisons, however, approximately 60 percent of adults have had at least one TBI—and even higher prevalence has been reported in some systems. These injuries, which can alter behavior, emotion and impulse control, can keep prisoners behind bars longer and increases the odds they will end up there again. Although the majority of people who suffer a TBI will not end up in the criminal justice system, each one who does costs states an average of $29,000 a year. With more than two million people in the U.S. currently locked up—and millions more lingering in the justice system on probation or supervision—the widespread issue of TBI in prison populations is starting to gain wider attention. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16344 - Posted: 02.06.2012

By Gary Stix Concussion, the most common among traumatic brain injuries, which occurs 1.7 million times a year in the U.S., represents a major public-health problem. It occurs when there is a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head, a process depicted here in this animation. A blow can produce a brief loss of consciousness, headaches and impaired cognition, among other symptoms. Symptoms can last for days or sometimes longer. And a person who experience one risks another and may find recovery takes longer. Scientists continue to learn more about the nefarious consequences of repeated concussions. In the February issue of Scientific American, writer Jeffrey Bartholet details in “The Collision Syndrome evidence for yet another neurodegenerative disorder that can result from concussions. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 16334 - Posted: 02.04.2012