by Dale S. Foster, PhD
I have been helping others, and myself, tune up our brains with neurofeedback and neurostimulation technologies for over thirty years. Every time I interview someone for the first time, whether it is for peak performance training or to help with a brain problem, I ask, “Have you ever had a brain injury?” Most respond initially with no. However, upon further questioning they almost always change their answer, remembering a time or times when they hit their head hard enough to alter their consciousness. Upon further reflection, many remember how a brain injury changed their lives in dramatic ways. The ones who answer my question with a quick yes usually had very serious and immediate problems from their concussion, such as loss of consciousness, coma, paralysis, and disability.
Whenever your head moves rapidly enough, the brain, the soft tofu-like organ floating inside your thick skull, sloshes around and bumps against the inside of your skull. And being bouncy, it continues to bounce around for a few laps before it comes back to rest. During these bounces it gets squashed and twisted causing some of its 100 billion neurons and trillions of neurofilaments to break. As a network, your brain is like the global internet. When nodes in a network or connections between nodes break, the complexity of the network decreases. A less complex network is capable of less complex work. And since consciousness is the most complex process we know of, brain injury results in disturbance of consciousness.
This is a concussion, your brain is sloshed around hard enough to break some of its neurons and neurofilaments, destroying nodes and connections. Fortunately, our brains have an abundance of nodes and connections so a mild concussion may appear to be innocuous. Unfortunately, this is a false belief. Losing nodes and connections in your brain’s neural network is generally not a good thing. For example, Second Impact Syndrome occurs when someone suffers a blow to the head, and it appears to be inconsequential. Soon after the first blow, however, a second blow proves to be fatal.
A concussion doesn’t require a blow to the head, however. Concussions also occur when the head is jerked around in car accidents, whip lash accidents, falls, shaken baby syndrome, or any time the head is moved rapidly enough to slosh the brain hard against the skull. After a concussion you may need to get help to take the steps to protect and help your brain heal. Just because you can still walk and talk, that doesn’t mean you are fine. Be good to your brain and take concussions seriously. If you have a concussion, get an assessment to find what functions have been impacted and what neural networks have lost power. Make a plan to heal and retrain your brain. We all know how physical therapy can help us recover from an injury to our bodies. We now have the field of neurotherapy that can help us heal and strengthen our brains after a concussion.