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Brain damage

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Brain damage or brain injury is the destruction or degeneration of brain cells.

Brain damage may occur due to a wide range of conditions, illnesses, or injuries. Possible causes of widespread (diffuse) brain damage include prolonged Congenital factors, hypoxia (shortage of oxygen), poisoning, infection, and neurological illness. Common causes of focal or localized brain damage are physical trauma (traumatic brain injury), stroke, aneurysm, or neurological illness.

The extent and effect of brain injury is often assessed by the use of neurological examination, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological assessment.

Brain injury does not necessarily result in long-term impairment or disability, although the location and extent of damage both have a significant effect on the likely outcome. In serious cases of brain injury, the result can be permanent disability, including neurocognitive deficits, delusions (often specifically monothematic delusions), speech or movement problems, and mental handicap. Severe brain damage may result in persistent vegetative state, coma, or death.

Other effects include:

Various professions may be involved in the medical care and rehabilitation of someone who suffers impairment after brain damage. Neurologists, neurosurgeons, and physiatrists are physicians who specialise in treating brain injury. Neuropsychologists (especially clinical neuropsychologists) are psychologists who specialise in understanding the effects of brain injury and may be involved in assessing the extent of brain damage or creating rehabilitation programmes. Occupational therapists may be involved in running rehabilitation programmes to help restore lost function or help re-learn essential skills.

It has been reported that damage sustained during childhood has a better chance of successful recovery than similar injury acquired in adult life. In fact, the consequences of childhood injury may simply be more difficult to detect in the short term. This is because different cortical areas mature at different stages, with some major cell populations and their corresponding cognitive faculties remaining unrefined until early adulthood. In the case of a child with frontal brain injury, for example, the impact of the damage may be undetectable until that child fails to develop normal executive functions in his or her late teens and early twenties.

The effects of impairment or disability resulting from brain injury may be treated by a number of methods, including medication, psychotherapy, neuropsychological rehabilitation, snoezelen, surgery, or physical implants such as deep brain stimulation.

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