For traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients, the symptoms often linger long after the injury-causing incident took place. For many, navigating life with depression becomes their new normal. While living with depression as well as other effects of a TBI can be devastating, recent findings indicate that significant symptom management may be within reach.
Significant Signs of Improvement
In a study out of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, research was done into the effects of cognitive training on brain health and depressive symptoms following a TBI. Drawing from a pool of 79 participants with chronic TBI, researchers identified 53 individuals who were depressed based on criteria from the Beck Depressive Inventory. The patients were then divided into two groups, one using strategy-based training and the other using information based-training.
Following the training programmes, all participants demonstrated a significant reduction in depressive symptoms in addition to improvements in cognitive ability. Based on these findings, researchers deduced that the combination of social engagements and the cognitive stimulation associated with learning new things helped contribute to a sense of hope of improvement and a subsequent decrease in symptoms of depression.
Physical Changes to the Brain
Another key finding that emerged from the study was a change in the thickness of the prefrontal cortex. The study’s participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans at three points throughout the study which ultimately revealed cortical thickening within the area of the brain charged with handling emotional control. Indications of unusually high neural connectivity within the same region were observed as decreasing.
What does this mean for TBI patients who suffer from depression? One hope is that clinicians and healthcare professionals may be able to approach treatment effectively while relying less on pharmaceutical support. There is also the sense of encouragement that come with knowing that a patient has more than just a modicum of control over the health of their brain and their path towards recovery.
Moving Forward With TBI
The effects of a traumatic brain injury are far-reaching and complicated. Having the right kind of treatment and support plays a critical role in helping patients and their loved ones manage symptoms and adapt to their new normal. With such important research advancements being made, the focus can shift towards the future.