With its mission to maximize human cognitive potential across the lifespan in health, injury, and disease, the Center for BrainHealth team is dedicated to understanding, protecting and restoring the brain after a traumatic brain injury. 

Understanding TBI

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), often referred to as a concussion, occurs when an individual sustains an injury to the head and internal brain damage results. The damage may be restricted to a specific area of the brain or may be more serious and involve more comprehensive harm.

TBI is often a consequence of accidents such as motor vehicle collisions, and is the most common cause of death in children in the United States.

Brain injuries are classified in terms of mild, moderate, and severe based on the extent of damage. Symptoms vary by type of injury and by individual, but many common symptoms occur, such as dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, coma and seizures.

More long-term effects can emerge, including:

  • Memory problems
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Intense anger and/or aggression
  • Personality changes
  • Inattention and lack of concentration
  • Problems organizing, planning, and problem solving
  • Language impairment
Over two decades of research

Since 1984, the Center for BrainHealth researchers have been involved in one of the largest and longest-running collaborative studies of traumatic brain injury in youth, with hundreds of children participating.

Currently, the NIH-funded study monitors children’s recovery of important abilities related to social and emotional functioning that may be affected by their injury, incorporating innovative cognitive assessment tools and the latest functional brain imaging measures.

Youth TBI research findings

One of the most important findings to emerge from this long-term study is that the brain of the child and adolescent requires special consideration, as a child’s brain is continuing to undergo development and refinement until his or her late 20s. Any injury to the brain before it has matured increases the risk of long-term cognitive deficits. For particularly young children, the long-term effects may not even be evident until later developmental stages. 

Additionally, whereas children who had a concussion (i.e., “mild” brain injury) were previously thought to recover cognitive function within the normal range in the long term, there is increasing evidence that full recovery after concussion may not extend to all children, especially when more complex cognitive functions are considered.

Mild vs. severe

Center for BrainHealth researchers have found that some children (as many as one in five) who had a concussion demonstrated comparable difficulties to children with severe brain injuries in higher-order reasoning skills, even as late as two years after the injury.

To address these emerging difficulties, Center for BrainHealth scientists have developed a cutting-edge cognitive intervention called Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), which is designed to teach adolescents how to more effectively assimilate, manage, and utilize information, crucial skills for not only academic success but also strengthening overall brain function in daily life.