Head Injuries – Acquired ADD?


Head Injuries Affect Attention & Focus
whether the injury was mild or severe

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-based Coaching Series

Boing-oing-oing-oing . . . OUCH!

As long as there have been humans, there have been hits to the head. Some of them were a actually caused by those humans!

Much attention has been paid to sports-concussions and severe forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially those resulting in concussions and coma.

The milder impacts, such as those from falling off a bicycle or a ladder, the jolt from a low-speed car accident or taking a weak punch in a fistfight are far more common.

These milder injuries may not entail losing consciousness — more likely to result in a slightly dazed feeling or a brief lack in responsiveness before recovering — have gotten the attention they deserve only relatively recently

They ALL damage the brain, however.

“New data suggests blows to the head are on the rise among U.S. adults and kids, but definitive diagnosis remains elusive.” ~ Scientific American Mind

Questions remain as to how long it takes to recover, to what degree and how quickly each piece of the cognitive puzzle comes back on line reliably, as well as how to identify which brain injuries are likely to recover and why some never do.

Part of the challenge in understanding these injuries is how varied they can be.  But it is no small problem.

Making things worse still, suffering even one concussion elevates the risk of suffering another and may make it all the more challenging to recover from future damage.

Here’s a scary statistic: According to an article found on the Scientific American blogsite, the average a 10-year old can experience as many as 240 hits to the head in a single football season.

Related Post: How Do Brains Get Damaged?  Is YOURS?

Troubles Often Persist

Even when a brain-scan cannot pinpoint specific areas of damage, months after a concussion patients may still have lingering symptoms, including an inability to concentrate as well as headaches — even when initial brain scans reveal nothing amiss.

Dr. Jennifer Marin, a Pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says, “Explaining the concept of cognitive rest [for recovering from injury] is difficult when you can’t show an image of how the brain has been injured.”

At the hospital, she says, “we stabilize patients but then they go home and a lot of them will experience complications down the line.”

What KIND of “complications?”

Attentional deficits and reduced speed of information processing have been found consistently, in even mild head injuries, despite lack of gross deficits in intelligence or memory (Bohnen, Jolles, Twijnstra, Mellink, & Wijnen, 1995).

These deficits are frequently the most persisting cognitive complaints (Chan, 2001).

From an article on ScienceDirect from the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (Volume 21, Issue 4, May 2006, Pages 293-296):

Head injury typically results in diffuse damage (not in one specific spot) that produces a reduction in information processing capacity.

This processing capacity has been broadly described as the number of operations the brain can carry out at the same time.

Individuals with mild head injury demonstrate problems when they are required to analyze or process more information than they can handle simultaneously (Gronwall, 1989).

Decreased information processing has been posited to be primarily due to problems with attention (Kay, Newman, Cavallo, Ezrachi, & Resnick, 1992; Szymanski & Linn, 1992)

In addition, fatigue and/or stress, common following head injuries, have been shown to further compromise the processing speed of those who have incurred even a mild head injury (Ewing, McCarthy, Gronwall, & Wrightson, 1980; Wood, Novack, & Long, 1984).

Related Post: ABOUT Processing Speed

Or perhaps it’s because of slowed processing speed?

Research conducted by Ponsford and Kinsella (1992) demonstrated that the difficulty in performing a sustained attention task experienced by individuals who have suffered even a mild head injury may result more from a slowed speed of processing than from attentional deficits.

Fortunately, even though the speed of performance is reduced for head-injured participants, no significant reduction exists in terms of accuracy of performance (Stuss et al., 1985).

Related Posts:
Processing slower or more to think about?
Processing Efficiency is all about Juggling

REGARDLESS of the underlying problem, the effects on behavior are very much the same as the struggles of those with a particular Executive Functioning Disorder known as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

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Oct. 2017 Mental Health Awareness


October is ADD/ADHD Awareness Month

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for many other mental health issues —
this month especially

World Mental Health Day is October 10th

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the ADD/ADHD Cormidities series

Mark your blogging calendar

Each year is peppered with a great many special dates dedicated to raising awareness about important emotional, physical and psychological health issues. Scroll down for a list highlighting important days and weeks that impact mental health.

Also included on the list below are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood and attention management.

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments below so that I can add it to the list.

Attention Bloggers: If you write (or have written) an article that adds content to any of these categories, feel free to leave a link in the comment section and I will move it into its appropriate category.

(Keep it to one link/comment or you’ll be auto-spammed and I’ll never see it TO approve)


Increase your ADD/ADHD Awareness

Many attentional challenges are NOT genetic

The attentional challenges you will most frequently hear or read about are experienced by individuals diagnosed with one of the ADD/ADHD varietals, usually associated with a genetic component today — at least by those who do their research before ringing in.

Related Post: ADD Overview-101

However, NOT ALL attentional & cognitive deficits are present from birth, waiting for manifestations of a genetic propensity to show up as an infant grows oldernot by a long shot!

Almost everyone experiences situational deficits of attention and cognition any time the number of events requiring our attention and focus exceeds our ability to attend.

Situational challenges are those transitory lapses that occur whenever our ability to attend is temporarily impairedwhen there are too many items competing for focus at the same time.

As I began in Types of Attentional Deficits, regardless of origin or age of onset, problems with attention and cognition are accompanied by specific brain based bio-markers, the following in particular:

  • neuro-atypical changes in the pattern of brain waves,
  • the location of the area doing the work of attention and cognition, and
  • the neural highways and byways traveled to get the work done.

In addition to the challenges that accompany neuropsychiatric issues and age-related cognitive decline, a currently unknown percentage of attentional deficits are those that are the result of damage to the brain.

Many ways brains can be damaged

  • Some types of damage occur during gestation and birth
    (for example, the result of substances taken or falls sustained during pregnancy, or an interruption of the delivery of oxygen in the birth process);
  • Others are the result of a subsequent head injury caused by an accident or contact sports
    (since TBIs often involve damage to the tips of the frontal lobes or shearing of white-matter tracts associated with diagnostic AD(h)D);
  • Still others result from the absorption or ingestion of neurotoxic substances; and
  • A great many are riding the wake of damage caused by stroke, physical illnesses and their treatment protocols and medications.

Still More Examples:

Cognitive lapses and attentional struggles frequently occur when the brain is temporarily impaired or underfunctioning due to:

  • Medication, alcohol or other substances
  • Grief or other strong emotional responses
  • Stress, especially prolonged stress
  • Sleep deprivation

Stay tuned for more articles about attentional struggles and attention management throughout October.

NOW let’s take a look at what else for which October is noted.

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