Learning and Memory Issues After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 26, 2019

Learning and memory issues are often experienced by people who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident, a slip and fall or another kind of accident. These issues are among a range of cognitive problems a TBI sufferer may experience.

Brain injuries are complicated by their very nature. Not all cognitive problems experienced after brain trauma may be obvious from the outset. While some problems may improve with time, others are permanent.

Cognition is the act of thinking or knowing. We take the ability to understand, make choices, remember and use information for granted. The sufferer of a traumatic brain injury may experience cognitive deficits that are obvious or more subtle.

If you sustain a TBI, you should talk to a brain injury lawyer with expertise in this highly specialized area. The Smith Law Center has helped clients with very severe and life-threatening brain injuries across the United States.

What is Cognition?

Cognition is defined as:

  • Processing and understanding information
  • Memory
  • The ability to communicate
  • Attention and concentration
  • Organizing, planning, and assembling
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, judgment and decision making
  • Patience and controlling impulses and desires

How a Traumatic Brain Injury Affects Learning, Memory and Cognition

It is common for accident victims who suffer a TBI to experience issues with concentration and memory in the days after sustaining a blow to the head. Other functions like speech and language, reasoning, learning and memory, planning and problem-solving may also be impacted.

Some of the main issues experienced include:

1. Problems Processing Information

After a traumatic brain injury, sufferers may find it difficult to comprehend and understand basic things they took for granted before. They often:

  • Take more time than before to grasp what other people are saying
  • Take more time to understand and follow basic directions
  • Experience trouble reading books, newspapers or magazines
  • Find it hard to follow the plot line in a film or a TV show

2. Issues with Attention and Concentration

If you suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may experience issues with focusing, paying attention or doing more than one task at any given time. People with a TBI may:

  • Be restless and easily distracted;
  • Find it hard to carry on a long conversation or to sit for periods of time;
  • Not be able to work on more than one project at any given time.

3. Problems with Driving After a Brain Injury

People who have suffered a brain injury may find their reaction time slows. This may be a major problem when they are driving. If a TBI sufferer can no longer react quickly to red lights or stop signs, they should not be on the roads until their visual skills and reaction time have been tested by a specialist.

4. Language and Communication Issues After a TBI

If you have suffered from a brain injury, your communication and language skills may be impacted. Brain injury victims often:

  • Fail to think of the right word;
  • Experience difficulty initiating or following conversations or understanding what other people are saying;
  • Find it hard to communicate their thoughts using facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication;
  • Ramble or get off of topic easily during conversations;
  • Find mastering more complicated language skills to be a challenge;
  • Experience issues reading other people’s emotions and not responding properly to the views or feelings of other people in social settings;
  • Misunderstand jokes or sarcasm.

5. TBI Sufferers Face Memory Issues

People who suffered brain damage may have a hard time processing new information and recalling other information. They may:

  • Struggle to remember new information and events.
  • Experience difficulty remembering events that occurred several weeks or months prior to the injury. This information may occur to them later. People with brain injuries often remember events from years ago very clearly.

6. Brain Injuries and Problem Solving

People who suffer a TBI often find it hard to work out everyday problems. For example:

  • People with TBI may struggle to recognize the existence of a problem in the first place. This is the first step in problem-solving.
  • They may struggle to analyze information or to be flexible enough to change the way they think.
  • They may rush to quick solutions and decisions without thinking through the potential consequences of their actions.
  • When working out problems, they may struggle to decide on the best solution or get fixated on one solution while disregarding all others.

7. Brain Injury Victims May Behave Inappropriately

A brain injury can cause people to behave rudely and inappropriately in social settings. A TBI can remove social filters on behavior. People who suffered a TBI may.

  • Lack self-control and self-awareness in social settings
  • Deny they are suffering from cognitive problems even when it’s obvious they are suffering from issues related to their TBI.
  • Say hurtful and inappropriate things to family and friends.
  • Lack awareness of social boundaries and the feelings of other people and not be conscious they have made people uncomfortable.

Learning, Memory and Other Issues After a Traumatic Brain Injury – What Can Be Done?

Help people with a TBI by decreasing distractions and encouraging them to master one task.

Practice building attention skills such as reading a short story with them. Gradually make the task more challenging. Re-read information if possible to build concentration skills.

If a family member or a friend has suffered a TBI, be patient. Use a gentle tone of voice and ask the person frequently if they are understanding what you are telling them.

Develop a system to indicate to a TBI sufferer when they have gone off topic. People who have suffered a TBI benefit from one-to-one attention and quiet, non-chaotic environments.

Be organized and develop a structured routine for people who are suffering cognitive issues from a brain injury. It can help to use memory aids like calendars, daily schedules, notebooks and reminder cards. Additional tips can be found on the website of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia.

How Can Memory and Concentration Issues After a Brain Injury Be Proved?

Memory and concentration issues after a brain injury and other cognitive disorders can impact your quality of life. Although these issues may recede over time, they can be permanent.

It is important to document all of these changes when you are involved in a lawsuit against a party accused of causing an accident. Doctors may rule out a traumatic brain injury based solely on a negative MRI or CT-scan of the brain when one is present after an accident.

Tests of this nature are not always rigorous enough to detect certain brain injuries. If a loved one shows marked changes after an accident, you should continue to seek medical advice because a doctor may have missed signs of a TBI.

An attorney can build up your case. Stephen Smith of the Smith Law Center set up the Brain Injury Law Center. He points out it is the only law firm in the United States dedicated exclusively to representing brain injury victims, survivors and their families. Our results include a $60 million verdict to a man who suffered a brain injury in Williamsburg. Call us at (757) 244-7000.

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About Smith Law Center

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