Memory Loss After a Concussion
A concussion will affect your cognition. Most accident victims experience some brain fog immediately after sustaining a concussion. This brain fog can manifest in many ways, including confusion, difficulty concentrating, and amnesia.
The extent of memory loss after a brain injury can vary widely. This amnesia can pose almost no obstacle to the accident victim’s life. Or it can interfere with the accident victim’s ability to earn a living and meet their daily needs.
Read on to learn about memory loss after a concussion and your options for pursuing compensation.
What Are the Mechanics of a Concussion?
Your brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in your skull. The CSF and skull protect your brain. The skull is like the hard outer shell of a helmet, while the CSF is like the padding inside the helmet.
The skull protects your brain from impacts. The CSF protects your brain from hitting the inside of your skull. It does this because it has a viscosity slightly thicker than water. When you suffer head trauma, the CSF slows the motion of your brain.
Under most circumstances, these two layers of protection can prevent a brain injury. But when you get into an accident, the forces involved can overcome your natural protection and damage your brain. For example, in a car accident, rapid deceleration can cause your brain to slosh inside your skull.
In a worst-case scenario, you can experience forces so powerful that your brain slams into the inside of your skull. Bleeding inside the brain creates a contusion. Pressure on your brain from swelling and bleeding squeezes the brain cells and blood vessels. Brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen, leading to coma or death.
In a concussion, the CSF prevents the brain from hitting your skull. But in cushioning your brain, the CSF exerts so much pressure that it damages brain cells. The body triggers an inflammatory response to isolate the damage.
Your brain swells, causing symptoms like:
- Ringing ears
- Blurred vision
In most cases, concussion symptoms will appear slowly as the brain swells in the hours and days after the accident. These symptoms usually dissipate over the ensuing two months.
How Does Memory Work?
Memory involves two steps:
When something happens, your brain encodes that memory. Most memories get encoded in short-term memory. Short-term memories last a few minutes.
You use these memories to perform tasks like navigating to a location, solving a math problem, or following a recipe. These memories bear little significance to you, so the brain forgets them quickly.
Long-term memories work differently. These memories get encoded into a connection in your brain. As the memory gets repeated, the connection gets reinforced. For example, as you learn a new skill or fact, repeating it over and over will create a stronger connection in your brain. This repetition ingrains the memory into your brain so you do not forget it.
When you need to call upon that memory, the brain retrieves it. Scientists do not know exactly how encoding and retrieval work. But the connections that represent memories allow your brain to locate and retrieve specific memories. This use of connections might explain why one memory might remind you of another memory.
When Does Memory Loss Occur After a Concussion?
Memory loss happens due to a disruption in the encoding or retrieval of memories. In the case of a concussion, you might have amnesia due to both of these disruptions.
Immediately After Your Accident
Doctors use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to measure the severity of a concussion.
This test uses three observations to rate a concussion as mild, moderate, or severe:
- Eye-opening response
- Motor response
- Verbal response
To observe the accident victim’s verbal response, the EMT or doctor asks several questions. If the patient can give oriented answers – even if the patient gives incorrect answers – the patient has a mild concussion. If the patient uses words but gives an incoherent answer, the patient has a moderate concussion. If the patient produces sounds but not words or cannot answer, the patient has a severe concussion.
The questions to elicit a verbal response often include:
- What is your name?
- Do you know where you are?
- What day is it?
A patient who cannot answer these questions may have amnesia. But an incorrect answer could also result from difficulty understanding the question or formulating a response.
Memories of the Accident
Many concussion patients cannot remember how they got injured. This makes sense because, at the instant of the impact, your brain may have lost the ability to encode memories.
In other words, as your brain was jostled around during the accident, it may have temporarily stopped encoding memories. As a result, your brain simply has no memories of the accident to retrieve.
Alternatively, you may have memories of the accident, but mental trauma may prevent your brain from retrieving them. Your brain’s defense mechanisms after a traumatic event may include blocking those memories so you do not need to relive the trauma. This might seem like amnesia but may stem from an effort by your brain to avoid the memories.
Ongoing Memory Problems
The most troubling form of amnesia after an accident includes ongoing or recurring memory problems. This type of memory loss might indicate damage to the parts of your brain that encode or retrieve memories.
Ongoing memory problems might also stem from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can cause brain fog and difficulty concentrating. Your memory problems might result from problems taking in and remembering new information.
What Compensation Can You Receive for Memory Loss After a Concussion?
When you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can seek injury compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. These damages will depend on the severity and duration of your injuries.
Your economic damages include the financial cost of your injuries. These losses include the cost of mental therapy for your memory loss. It also covers the income you lost due to your amnesia.
Your non-economic damages cover all of the ways your injuries diminish your quality of life. This includes such losses as mental anguish and the inability to participate in activities.
Memory loss after a concussion can impact your ability to work. It can also reduce your enjoyment of life. To discuss the injury compensation your memory loss might justify, contact Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers for help.