The brain is similar to a large spear of broccoli. The broccoli fronds are like the outer part of the brain, the cortex or grey matter, where the brain cells exist and the spear or stalk is like the connecting tracts in the center of the brain. These tracts are also known as the white matter. Trauma causes an injury to the brain that is mechanistically identical to shaking the broccoli by its stalk. The shaking causes a mechanical disruption of the connecting tracts between brain cells. These tracts are similar to the cable that carries our cable television and broadband. Once disrupted cells can’t communicate between themselves and some of the cables die back to the cells which then die.
Each cable that is lost causes a loss of neurological function and thinking. In addition, each little site of disruption of cable or blood vessels is a wound in the brain that starts the inflammatory reaction. It is also associated with swelling, just like a swollen ankle or a bruise on the arm. As swelling occurs the swelling fluid compresses the small blood vessels in the area leading to low blood flow and low oxygen. Nearby cells then are further injured and live in a dormant state, or die.
This is known as the “vicious cycle” of traumatic brain injury. The net result is loss of neurological function and symptoms such as headache, confusion, problems with memory, attention, concentration, sleep disturbance, irritability, etc.
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