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Cultivating a deeper understanding of traumatic brain injury

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Wed, 11 Nov 2020
Cultivating a deeper understanding of traumatic brain injury
cross section of a brain prosthetic

In his Professorial Lecture, Professor Nigel V. Marsh explored the prediction of survival and patterns of recovery following significant traumatic brain injury.

In industrialised countries, traumatic brain injury (commonly referred to as a head injury) is the most common cause of brain damage in children and young adults. Traumatic brain injury typically involves a sudden blow to the head – which can be caused by distressing events such as a traffic accident, a fall or a violent attack. This can cause long-term damage to the brain, which may lead to neurological and psychological disorders.

Professor Nigel V. Marsh, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of Professional Programs at James Cook University in Singapore, shared in his Professorial Lecture about his research and observations of patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury, noting that “For me, and for other rehabilitation professionals like me, it’s important that we work in these areas because we want to alleviate the suffering.”

In a study on long-term outcomes – comprising of time periods of 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years – for patients with traumatic brain injuries, it was observed that impairment to intelligence and simple attention were low and there were improvements between 6 and 12 months. There were also improvements to executive functioning skills and visual perception across the three time periods. However, when it came to verbal memory – there was a high prevalence of impairment, and deterioration was observed between 1 and 5 years.

Professor Marsh says, “This does have implications for rehabilitation practice and in terms of planning. We put a lot of resources into keeping people alive when they have these severe accidents. That’s not sufficient. We need to see this as a long-term commitment, particularly when there’s evidence that people are going to get worse over the long-term.”

Perhaps the most obvious long-term psychological outcome from significant traumatic brain injury is social isolation. This is a problem for patients and their families, as patients tend to fall out of their existing social networks after suffering traumatic brain injuries and they don’t tend to form new relationships well.

Conversely, love and patience are important qualities to have for caregivers of people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Something Professor Marsh often tells his neuropsychology students is that “If you’re going to be unlucky enough to have a neurological disability, your long-term quality of life will be determined in large part by the care and understanding you receive from your family and friends.”

“It is really important that our society realises that beyond medical care in the early period following moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, the families of the people who receive the injuries need community support to provide the long-term social care needed by their injured family member. Understanding what it’s like to be a family member of someone who’s had a traumatic brain injury is difficult for many people. But it is necessary that they are supported to provide the important care that they deliver.”

View the full recording of the webinar here.

Check out Professor Nigel V. Marsh’s staff and research profiles here.

Find further information on our areas of research and research strength at James Cook University in Singapore here.


Professor Nigel V. Marsh [email protected]
Media: Pinky Sibal [email protected]