Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Iraq and neuropsychology

You probably have seen the news about Bob Woodruff’s own recovery and his articles now to raise awareness about the plight of Iraq veterans.

In the article “A Firsthand Report on the Wounds of War“, we learn how

  • “Woodruff, 45, is launching a multimedia campaign that includes appearances Tuesday with Oprah Winfrey and on “Good Morning America,” and the release of a book (In an Instant) written with his wife, Lee, about their ordeal.”
  • “Woodruff’s reporting packs an emotional punch because he is, quite simply, a man who cheated death. Never before had an anchor for an American broadcast network been injured in war. Woodruff instantly became a symbol of the dangers that journalists face in Iraq, and is trying to use his higher profile to illuminate the plight of soldiers who struggle with these injuries far from the spotlight.”

This is not an isolated example but part of a larger, and growing, problem. The Discover Magazine article Dead Men Walking: what sort of future do brain-injured Iraq veterans face?” discusses what a great work the military is doing to prevent deaths of injured soldiers in Iraq-with the unintended consequence that rehabilitation services back in the US are completely overwhelmed.

Neurophilosopher puts this problem in a wider context with DoD is neglecting troops’ mental health.

For a better prespective, this is a quote from our interview with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg on Cognitive Training, talking about the birth of modern neuropsychology during World War II:

“Of course there weren’t advanced neuroimaging techniques those days, so scientists could only speculate about what happened in healthy brains. But they could carefully analyze what happened with patients who had suffered any kind of serious brain problem, from strokes to traumatic brain injury. And this is how neuropsychology was born: Alexander Luria, Vygotsky’s disciple, and my own mentor, was commissioned to help rehabilitate Russian soldiers with brain injuries during WWII. This provided invaluable clinical material for understanding the mechanisms of the healthy brain. Much of modern cognitive neuroscience rests its foundation in Luria’s work.”

We were recently contacted by a traumatic brain injury survivor who says:

“As to your question, in 1967 there was not any neuro rehab given to me. My parents never told me that I should be affected by the brain injury, so I was on my own to figure things out…how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences. I am not sure what to tell you with regards to specific ways that I taught myself. I just did it. Dogged determination, perseverance in the face of different factors and then tweaking things as I grew older. I do not have a neuro road map to give you to give to other people for their specific recovery. My only suggestion is that they should not give up on themselves or let other people place limitations upon them. I am still tweaking life. Hope this helps.”

Good quote: “My only suggestion is that they should not give up on themselves or let other people place limitations upon them. I am still tweaking life.”

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4 Responses

  1. David Wagner says:

    The idea that we don’t know enough about TBI to do more than burr-hole to relieve pressure is silly, like we are limited to the medicine of pyramid builders.

    First, you reduce incidence of injury. Until 2006, line infantry and reservists were still being concussed by secondary impact with the unpadded insides of their own helmets. The Army and Marine commands had to be arm-twisted by activists and Congress to issue all troops the $125 interior helmet padding that was standard for airborne/SOF troops.

    IED-blasted troops that would not be allowed to return to college sports until they had recovered mental acuity, are being ‘returned to duty within 3 days’, the measure of efficiency in military medicine.

    SecArmy Geren is still witholding the 2007 Army TBI Task Force Report from Congress, 8 months after it was completed.

    It is an ongoing scandal, from the re-injury of impaired soldiers, to the months of waiting to BEGIN treatment after discharge. Write your Representative and remind them that we have a duty too, to know what we are voting on.

  2. Alvaro says:

    David, you are right in that much is known on how to help prevent TBI in a variety of contexts, from battle to sports to driving. And there are clear guidelines on how to help the rehab process.

    I agree with you that what has been happening is far from what should happen. Thanks for reminding us.

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