Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are aptly named. The brain itself experiences trauma with these injuries, negatively affecting the victims and their entire families. TBIs range in severity, but often lead to long-term or permanent disability. Fortunately, recent TBI research is promising breakthroughs and possibly brighter futures for those affected by TBIs.
A recent study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment offers an exciting new alternative in infrared laser therapy. The study suggests that high-powered near infrared light (NIR) offers increased effectiveness in restoring damaged brain cells. Each patient within the small study group significantly improved in clinical presentation after light therapy, with no indicated negative side effects.
The research was co-authored by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital and focused on individuals who experienced long-term negative effects from concussions. Symptoms ranged from severe headaches, speech irregularities, memory slips, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression to impulse-control difficulties.
The study’s findings are promising, but patients are warned that NIR treatment isn’t a cure-all and that more evaluation is needed. The research has thus far been limited by small sample size, and the findings emphasize the need for further research.
TBIs are challenging to treat because they range so widely in severity. No two cases of brain injury are alike, and it can be difficult to determine the extent of an injury. Scientists are looking to change this. Researchers are in the process of identifying special biomarkers to classify the severity of an injury. For example, there may be a special biological indicator in the blood of patients with more severe injuries. Doctors hope that as they’re better able to determine the severity of an injury, they’ll be more equipped to deliver medical intervention within an appropriate time frame, improving the outcomes for those with TBI.
TBI survivors may take several medications to control the symptoms of their injuries, such as those for depression, anxiety, and seizures. There are currently no medications that specifically treat TBI, but some researchers are hopeful that pharmaceutical intervention could be the future of TBI treatments. Researchers recently identified a type of compound called humanin, which effectively reduced several impairments in mice. If this research is applicable to humans, we may have a method to treat the brain injury itself instead of just controlling its symptoms.
Another researcher at the University of Texas has discovered a compound that may protect neurons if administered within a short time after sustaining a brain injury. This compound, as explained to Texas Public Radio, has the potential to stop damage in its tracks. However, it still requires clinical trials.
One theory underlying TBI is that many of the symptoms are the result of broken or otherwise damaged pathways in the brain. Rewiring those pathways could theoretically help treat TBI. Some researchers believe that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may do just that.
Researchers hope that the brain may be able to repair damaged pathways or create new ones through environmental conditioning. One theorized treatment involves placing patients in sealed rooms and administering 100 percent oxygen. Study results have been mixed for this procedure, indicating the need for more research.
TBI research continues to evolve and evoke promising results. Effective treatments for this complex disorder are still in the planning and clinical trial stages, so it may be years until they’re approved for general use. In the meantime, we can hope that scientists will continue their efforts to treat these unique patients. The more we learn about the presentation and underlying causes of brain injuries, the better equipped we will be to heal them.
If you or someone you love suffered a TBI as the result of someone else’s negligence—for instance, a careless truck driver hit your vehicle, causing head injuries—our experienced TBI attorneys can help you obtain fair and complete compensation. Brain injuries are diagnosed much more regularly these days and it is a very serious injury that can have lifelong impacts. Speak to an attorney if your doctor has mentioned any type of head injury or brain trauma.