All of the currently accepted symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries (more commonly referred to as concussions) are expected to fade within a relatively short time following the initial injury. But, with the growing concern about long-term effects of brain injuries, doctors are beginning to reevaluate the common perception of concussions, especially in younger children.
The latest experiment focused on children with head injuries found that more serious injuries may have lasting effects on children’s ability to interact with others. The researchers evaluated a group of children who had suffered traumatic brain injuries three years earlier, and found that those with lingering damage in the brain’s frontal lobes had lower quality social lives.
The Brigham Young University study was published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. The researchers were unable to determine a direct relationship, but a clear correlation was shown.
“The thing that’s hardest about brain injury is that someone can have significant difficulties but they still look OK,” neuropsychologist and study author Shawn Gale said in a university news release.
“But they have a harder time remembering things and focusing on things as well, and that affects the way they interact with other people. Since they look fine, people don’t cut them as much slack as they ought to,” Gale explained.
The researchers believe the problem lies in the brain’s cognitive proficiency, a measurement of the combined short-term memory and brain-processing speed.
“In social interactions we need to process the content of what a person is saying in addition to simultaneously processing nonverbal cues,” study co-author Ashley Levan, a doctoral student at BYU, said in the news release. “We then have to hold that information in our working memory to be able to respond appropriately. If you disrupt working memory or processing speed, it can result in difficulty with social interactions.”