Study: Brain Injuries in Childhood Have Lasting Effects on Learning

Brain injuries can lead to widespread deficits in a range of functions — from language to motor skills and cognition — and the effects may be longer-lasting than researchers thought, especially in young children who suffer traumatic blows to the head. In research published in the journal Pediatrics, Vicki Anderson, director of critical care and neuroscience research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and her colleagues found that children with brain injuries continue to have problems with cognition for a decade after their trauma. In previous studies, Anderson showed that these effects can last for as long as five years. The new study followed a group of 40 children aged 2 to 7 with traumatic brain injuries, generally caused by car accidents or a bad fall. They were given a battery of cognitive, social and behavioral skills tests at the time of their injury, and then tested again at three months, six months, 18 months, five years and 10 years after the injury. VIDEO: Gabrielle Giffords’ Brain Injury: The Steps to Recovery Overall, the children with the most severe brain injuries showed the most deficits over the course of study, while those with milder injuries showed the least problems, compared with a group of 16 control participants who did not have brain injuries. Most of the deficits occurred in higher learning skills such as organization, planning and reasoning, because these are centered in the frontal regions of the brain, which are most often affected in head injuries. These regions are also the ones that develop fastest early in life, so any injury that disrupts the normal trajectory of nerve growth can have long-lasting effects, says Anderson. Despite the fact that the brain is plastic, meaning that it has redundancies and possesses a remarkable ability to compensate for deficits, when young children injure their brains, they suffer from a double whammy. First, because their brains are still developing, they don’t have the advantage of falling back on a fertile, fully developed brain. Second, their brain development after the … Continue reading Study: Brain Injuries in Childhood Have Lasting Effects on Learning