What is brain injury?

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 3.33.33 PMOur brain is the most complex and amazing organ that exists! This collection of tiny neurons not only controls how we move our arms and legs, or remember faces and phone numbers; it also has the capacity to expand its intellectual boundaries to match the vastness of the universe. Our brains are remarkable in their ability of understanding and comprehension, which can scale down to the level of sub-atomic particles on one hand, and scale up to ponder about supernatural and divine forces on the other hand. Our brains serve as storage for our memories, emotions, likes and dislikes. They help us understand language and speak it. They also help us understand the unspoken.

Every historical event that has ever happened, is an ode to the power of the human brain: this object that has enabled mankind to have invented the wheel, form civilizations and societies, write poetry, discover penicillin, go to the moon, cause atomic explosions, create world-wars, inflict genocides. From doing the simplest tasks like brushing a lock of hair off your face, to the most amazing feats like painting the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, our brains are the masters at play.

So we can not undermine the importance of the human brain. And this is why brain injury becomes such a complex issue that causes pain and grief beyond explanation.In order to talk further about the impact of Brain Injury, it becomes inevitable to talk about the mechanism of brain injury. Don’t worry, I will try and keep it simple for everyone to understand it.

This incredible organ of ours, that makes us the best creation on this earth, is in fact a small soft mass of cells that is housed in our hard skulls. It has the consistency more or less similar to jelly, and is placed in a box made of bones.

Now imagine you have a mound of jelly in a hard box: what will happen when you shake it? If you shake it slowly, you can bruise it slightly, but if you shake it hard enough, you can really destroy the jelly.

When a person receives a blow to the head, depending on the impact of the blow, something similar happens to the brain. However, since the brain also has blood vessels all over and around it, the blow can cause the blood vessels to tear or burst and form areas of bleeding around and inside the brain.

When we get an injury to any other part of our body, like our arms or fingers, we notice that that part swells up. This swelling is caused by inflammation, which is an important response of the body to deal with and then heal injuries. The same mechanism also sets in the brain when it is injured.

Now you know that 2 important things happen when a person receives a severe enough blow to the head. One: there can be bleeding, and two: there is inflammation. This is where the problem also arises….. remember the brain is in a closed box, so when bleeding and inflammation happens, the pressure inside the skull increases and presses on important parts of the brain and prevents normal flow of blood that is essential to keep the brain cells alive. If severe enough, this pressure can cause death. If however, the person survives, the damage can be long lasting, even permanent, because brain cells can only survive without oxygen and blood for a few minutes before dying forever.

In our next article we will see what happens when different parts of the brain are damaged and injured. But for now, I hope I am leaving you with a better understanding of why Brain Injury is such an important thing for all of us to know about, and hopefully prevent.

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