Concussions occur as the result of a rapid movement of the head and neck which causes the brain to shift and impact the skull. This sudden movement causes injury to the delicate structures, cells, neurons and blood vessels inside your brain. The impact of the injury can cause both physical and chemical changes in your brain and affect how it functions because it alters the systems in your brain. Medical professionals usually describe concussions as a mild form of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI) but, even the “mildest” concussions can cause serious effects and impact a person’s quality of life.
What imaging is used to diagnose a brain injury? After a concussion or any hit to the head, you go to the doctor, and they tell you might have a concussion, but that it is no big deal because your symptoms will just go away with some rest right? Sometimes, but not usually. It would be nice to know exactly how you are feeling to provide the best overall treatment and a new imaging technology can do that. A Functional Magnetic Resonance Image (fMRI) is an imaging technique used to diagnose concussion and recognizes changes in the brain while you are asked to engage in cognitive tasks. Most people have heard of an MRI and but fewer have heard of a functional MRI (fMRI). So what are they and what is the difference between them? MRI produces static images of the anatomy of the brain and a functional MRI produces images of what is going on inside the brain as it is working. Functional NeuroCognitive Imaging (fNCI) fNCI is a unique form of a fMRI that uses specific tests to measure how the brain is functioning. fNCI is over 98% accurate at diagnosing concussions. In the past, concussions have been subjectively diagnosed by either giving the individual a post-concussion symptom scale (PCSS) to rate the severity of their symptoms or by asking the patient if they went unconscious after getting hit.
Discover a new level of understanding around concussions and how these injuries impact the lives of victims and their loved ones.
Currently, many doctors and other medical professionals tell their patients that the majority of people who have a concussion will recover in a short amount of time (under a month). However, new studies are showing that the risk for long-term symptoms is much higher than doctors and concussion specialists previously thought. Before seeking treatment at Cognitive FX, the majority of our almost 1,000 patients struggled with their symptoms for years. We have treated patients who suffered needlessly from post-concussion symptoms for many decades. Among the oldest concussions we’ve treated was a concussion from 60 years ago. Many of these patients had given up hope that recovery was possible. They saw their symptoms as a permanent part of their lives and futures. However, our research and patient improvement reports continue to prove that patients can drastically improve from their post-concussion symptoms. So what should you do if you fall into this growing percentage of the population with long-term PCS? Below are the first steps you can take toward your recovery.
The brain loves taking the path of least resistance. This is true for blood flow and also for sending the communication signals in the brain when neurons are firing. Even a simple task requires different brain regions to work, or function, together at whatever you are trying to accomplish, be it reading this post, driving, writing, singing a song, or doing something as simple as opening your eyes, yawning, or breathing. Overall, when we are talking about brain function, we are talking about the ability for the neurons, the blood flow, and other systems in your brain to work and communicate with one another to do their job. After mTBI, injured regions of the brain can swell. Because the brain wants to take the path of least resistance, it will use different neuronal pathways to avoid the areas where there is inflammation. This change restricts blood flow in one or more regions of your brain, causing other regions to compensate for the regions that are injured. This means that different regions are over-exerting themselves to complete the work of the injured brain regions. Think of it as a receptionist who, on top of completing her own responsibilities, now has to do the job and work of the accounting department and the CEO. This imbalanced blood flow is what we call dysregulation, or dysfunction.
Over the last few months our team has been working on a new booklet to raise the level of awareness and education around concussions.
What comes to mind when you think of the word “syndrome?” Many commonly known syndromes are often associated with genetic factors or medical diseases that are often lifelong or have lasting effects. Because we know that many post-concussion symptoms are treatable, Cognitive FX agrees with the recent change in terminology and diagnosis that replaced post-concussion syndrome with the more accurate title of post-concussion symptoms. What was post-concussion syndrome? According to the latest International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), post-concussion syndrome included “subjective physical complaints (i.e. Headache, dizziness), cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes. These disturbances can be chronic, permanent, or late emerging” (King, Crawford, Wenden, Moss, & Wade, 1995). More specifically, post-concussion syndrome referred to a cluster of problems that emerge or worsen after receiving a concussion, with symptoms lasting longer than three months.