The brain is a highly specialized organ, with different areas each responsible for controlling a certain function. This means that the effects of traumatic brain injury, both short-term and long-term, can be unpredictable.
There are several ways to categorize symptoms of traumatic brain injury. For example, the Mayo Clinic organizes them primarily by the severity of the injury. Another means of categorization is according to the functions they affect.
Cognition is the scientific word for thinking, and according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, there are several significant effects that a brain injury can have on one’s thinking. A person can experience neuropsychological deficiencies, such as feeling confused or disoriented. Many cognitive symptoms of traumatic brain injury pertain to attention. People who have them frequently demonstrate an inability to focus on tasks and become easier to distract.
In a medical context, motor refers to a person’s ability to voluntarily control body movements. Traumatic brain injury can impair this ability, making it more difficult to maintain one’s balance or coordinate one’s motion to one’s intention.
Sensory function refers to one’s ability to perceive one’s surroundings. A traumatic brain injury may cause one to become hypersensitive to sound or light. A person may also experience dizziness or changes to the way they see, taste or hear.
There are several ways that a brain injury can affect one’s speech. It may cause the muscles that control the ability to articulate words to become weak, causing a condition of slurred speech called dysarthria. If the injury affects the speech centers of the brain, it may cause an inability or delay in thinking of the right word when trying to communicate verbally.
In addition to these functional deficits, a TBI can also cause pain, sometimes in the form of a headache that is constantly present or that keeps coming back.