According to a study published online in Neurology, even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage as well as thinking and memory problems. For the study, 44 people with a mild traumatic brain injury and nine people with a moderate traumatic brain injury were compared to 33 people with no brain injury. Participants took tests of their thinking and memory skills and had diffusor tensor imaging scans, which detects damage to brain cells. The individuals with brain injuries had their scans an average of 6 days after the injury.

A news release from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) indicates that a year later, 23 of those with injuries had another scan and took cognitive tests again. Compared to the participants with no brain injury, those with injuries had brain damage in brain white matter consisting of disruption to nerve axons. The study also found that patient scores on the verbal letter fluency task, a test of thinking and memory skills, were 25% lower than in the healthy people.

One year after the injury, the study results also showed that the scores on thinking and memory tests were the same for people with brain injuries and those with no injuries. However, there were still areas of brain damage in people with injuries. Andrew Blamire, PhD, author of the study, says, “These results show that thinking skills were recovering over time. The areas of brain damage were not as widespread across the brain as previously, but focused in certain areas of the brain, which could indicate that the brain was compensating for the injuries.”

Blamire explains, “Most of the studies thus far have focused on people with severe and chronic traumatic brain injury. We studied patients who had suffered clinically mild injuries often from common accidents such as falling from a bicycle, or slow speed car accidents. This finding is especially important, as 90% of all traumatic brain injuries are mild to moderate.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology