The brain is an incredible organ. It regulates all our involuntary functions like breathing, digestion, and blood circulation. It helps us process emotion, communicate with others, and create new things and ideas.<1>
With a healthy brain, we can meet everyday challenges and stressors with ease. But when the brain is impaired, even a simple task can seem monumental. Nootropics for brain injury could help reduce some of the lasting impacts of head trauma by repairing cell damage, stimulating the growth of new ones, directing more oxygen to the brain, improving mood and more.
What is Brain Injury?
The term ‘brain injury’ refers to the occurrence of an injury to the brain which causes temporary or permanent damage.<2> No two brain injuries are the same. Like fingerprints, the symptoms and recovery process for each individual can look vastly different from anyone else’s experience. The workings of the brain operate within a deep ocean of mysterious, largely unexplored depths. Doctors don’t even know much about the nature of brain injuries or how to repair them.
There are two types of brain injury. Traumatic brain injury originates outside of the body, usually as a result of blunt force trauma to the head caused by things like a physical attack or a car accident. Acquired brain injury is caused by an internal incident like stroke, seizure, or lack of oxygen.
Cmdr. Keith Stuessi, a family physician with the Concussion Restoration Care Center, examines Sgt. Gorge Segura, artilleryman with India Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Aug. 26. Segura, 25, from San Angelo, Texas, suffered a grade-two concussion when a 100-pound roadside bomb exploded 30 meters away from him during a foot patrol in the Kajaki region of northern Helmand Province.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury. A concussion is the result of a direct blow to the head, neck, or face. Concussions often accompany car accidents, sports, falls, or impact with objects.<3> Concussions can range from mild to severe, but every concussion affects the brain. Other types of TBI include penetrating injury, where the head and skull are penetrated through blunt force or projectile, contusions -bruising (bleeding) on the brain, and diffuse axonal (shaken baby syndrome).
A clumsy bump on the head in broad daylight can be scarier - and more real - than things that go bump in the night. Tim McKay and his wife, Jane Parks McKay, both suffered TBI’s from "casual" incidents. In 2007 Tim, a robotics engineer in Santa Cruz, was getting into his car after work when he bumped his head on the door frame. He drove home, feeling a little confused. It turned out his confusion was a symptom of a pretty bad brain injury that would cause lingering cognitive and memory deficits and an unsteady gait, ultimately forcing him to stop working.
Jane also hit her head against the door frame of an SUV. It wasn’t the first time she’d smacked her head, but this time it caused temporary speech problems immediately after the incident. She still copes with lapses in judgement and wandering attention every day.
Tim and Jane suffered the same type of brain injury, but the difference in outcomes illustrates how “anything from mild to severe brain injuries can affect people in unpredictable, puzzling and ‘unseen’ ways,” says Michael Weber, a senior neuropsychologist at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Acute Rehabilitation Program in Oakland.<4>
Broken Brains and Sports
Football, soccer, basketball, boxing, and MMA athletes are at higher risk for brain injury than most other people. Most professional athletes in contact sports have suffered some degree of brain injury at one time or another - probably more than once. Repeated blows to the head cause accumulative damage that can lead to permanent, severe neurological impairment.
Muhammad Ali's early-onset Parkinson's diagnosis at age 42 may have resulted from the repeated blows to the head that accompanied his stellar boxing career. Several studies have shown a link between mild to moderate brain injury and Parkinson's, and suggest that severe or repeated TBI may heighten the risk.<5>
Kevin Pearce at the Think Tank 2014 Brain Injury Symposium
Severe TBI’s have more immediately obvious effects. In 2009, Kevin Pearce was a professional snowboarder on par with 2018 Olympic gold winner Sean White - until he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training session in Park City, Utah. Pearce doesn’t remember anything about his 36-day, critical condition hospital stay in Utah. When he stabilized, he was airlifted to Craig Hospital in Denver, CO, where he spent another three and a half months in recovery. Initially, he showed little improvement, but suddenly his recovery avalanched forward.
By 2017, Kevin had made an astonishing recovery and he continues to push what doctors say are his limitations. He says,<6>
“Trying to heal this brain has been the toughest, most difficult challenge that I have ever been put in front of. And to this day, over seven years later, I spend every single day working on healing these issues that I deal with. This double vision. Because I will fix it. I will. This double vision will be healed.”
And that kind of positive attitude is key to success in the recovery process.
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Today, stroke is the leading cause of acquired brain injuries.<7> A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. The brain is deprived of oxygen and other nutrients, causing brain cells to die within minutes of onset. Ischemic strokes are the most common. They are caused by a blocked artery, which severely reduces blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels surrounding the brain rupture, flooding surrounding brain tissue with blood and damaging brain cells.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a “mini-stroke” that lasts a short time, sometimes as little as five minutes, and usually doesn’t result in lasting damage or symptoms. While a TIA may not present lasting symptoms, it can increase the risk of a more serious stroke over time.<8>
Other causes of ABI include:
- Severe infections, including Encephalitis and Meningitis
- Lack of oxygen, i.e. drowning, choking, suffocation
- Electric shock
- Poisoning, e.g. carbon monoxide, lead
- Drug overdose
- Progressive neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s<2>
A brain injury can have lasting effects on all or part of the brain, depending on the type and location of the damage. Recovery can be a long, grueling process but is often possible over time, especially with rehabilitation. Luckily, the most detrimental symptoms of many ABI’s can be diminished.The first step toward recovery is recognizing the signs and symptoms of brain injury.
A Neuranatomist Gets a First-Hand Look at ABI
Recognizing the early symptoms of an ABI can reduce the likelihood and extent of long-term damage and improve recovery time. Jill Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to recognize the signs of her own massive stroke. As a professional neuroanatomist, she was able to study the stroke's progression while it happened. It took her seven years, but Jill made a full recovery and went back to work, wrote a book about her experience called My Stroke of Insight, and now gives lectures on recognizing the first signs of stroke and how to cope with it.
Recovery from Brain Injury
If you suspect a moderate to severe brain injury, you should seek professional medical help immediately. Early attention makes a huge difference in most ABI’s, and it can help smooth and speed up the recovery process for TBI’s too. Symptoms can last for minutes, days, weeks, years, or longer. Assessing the symptoms correctly can help doctors understand the injury better.
Symptoms of Brain Injury
- Headache (first, most common)
- Vision problems
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty speaking
- Sensitivity to light/sound
- Movement impairment
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Problems with focus/concentration
- Personality change
- Mood swings
Recovery after brain injury depends on many things. One of the most important is plasticity - the brain's ability to create new neural pathways and connections.
Music can enhance neural plasticity by engaging both left and right brain hemispheres and activating many different brain regions simultaneously. Just listening to music can help people with Parkinson's walk better. And Melodic Intonation Therapy can help stroke victims recover speech abilities better than many other interventions.<9> Some of the same nootropics that work for musicians can help with brain injury, especially when combined with music therapies.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Brain Injury
Nootropics for brain injury can help speed recovery and improve rehabilitation results. But not all nootropics are created equal. Dealing with brain injury is a particularly sensitive area, and you need to be careful lest you do more harm than good. Safe supplements are non toxic and have very few to no side effects. Research has affirmed that all nootropics in Mind Lab Pro® are both safe and effective.
Brain injury can decrease the integrity of cell membranes and cause brain cell death. Because of its regenerative properties, Citicoline can stimulate new brain cell growth and help regenerate damaged cells, improving memory and focus - two common problem areas for people who experience brain injury.
Citicoline is currently used for stroke and traumatic brain injury in 59 countries outside the United States, including Japan and many European countries. Although one well-known U.S. study indicated Citicoline may not be suitable for acute TBI (COBRIT trial), other studies show it may benefit the neuro-cognitive state of those with long-term TBI symptoms.<10> And yet more research indicates Citicoline may be effective for improving post-stroke cognitive decline.<11>
Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's mane mushroom can promote nerve repair and growth in the brain and nervous sytem, potentially helping to improve motor functions like movement and speech and autonomic functions like breath rate, oxygen level, and swallowing.
Studies suggest regular consumption of Lion's mane may promote brain and nerve health, especially as a nootropic for brain injury.<12> It's also used as a mood booster, and a positive attitude makes the recovery process much easier to deal with.
L-Theanine's neuroprotective properties and ability to induce attention-boosting alpha brain waves and calming theta waves make it a good candidate for reducing brain injury following TBI. And it's been linked to a lowered risk for ABI.
While more human trials are needed in relation to TBI, one trial showed that administration of L-theanine and green tea improved memory and theta brain wave activity. Additional studies showed enhanced theta activity and better attention.<13>
Vitamin B6, B12
Injury to the central nervous system via TBI is one of the top causes of death for people under 45. Brain injury can cause the glial cells that normally cushion neurons and protect them from damage to become scarred, impeding neuronal regeneration.
One animal study showed that repeated administration of Vitamin B complexes including B6 and B12 reduced glial scarring and improved motor coordination and movement in rats with TBI. The positive results of these studies encourage more human research into the use of B vitamins for TBI recovery.<14>
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for brain injury promotes brain cell growth, neural plasticity, and focused attention for TBI and ABI.
Nootropics for brain injury can also reduce anxiety and improve mood by encouraging relaxed alpha and theta brain wave states. A positive, relaxed mind state allows the brain to spend precious energy on the regeneration and repair of damaged tissues for fuller recovery and better quality of life.
- Johns Hopkins University. “Neurology and Neurosurgery.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
- Brain Injury Overview. Brain Injury Association of America. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
- DVBIC. “Recognize.” A Head for the Future. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
- Ross M. “Life after brain injury: Patients and caregivers cope with ‘hidden’ disabilities.” Mercury News. San Francisco, CA. 27 Jan 2016. Updated 11 Aug 2016.
- Dolhun M, MD. Ask the MD: Head Trauma and Parkinson's Disease. Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. 17 Jun 2016.
- Pearce K. A brain injury is like a fingerprint, no two are alike. TEDxLincolnSquare. 4 May 2017.
- Common Causes for Brain Injury. Shepherd Center. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Stroke. Mayo Clinic. Accesses 12 Mar 2018.
- Fauble L. From Neanderthal to neuroscience: healing with sound and voice. Voice and Speech Review. 06 Sep 2017. Volume 11, 2017 - Issue 1; 72-86. doi:10.1080/23268263.2017.1370838
- Meshkini A, Meshkini M, Sadeghi-Bazarghani H. Citicoline for traumatic brain injury: a systematic review & meta-analysis. J Inj Violence Res. 2017 Jan; 9(1): 41–50. doi:10.5249/jivr.v9i1.843
- Alvarez-Sabin J, et al. Long-term treatment with citicoline may improve poststroke vascular cognitive impairment. Cerebrovasc Dis. 2013;35(2):146-54. doi: 10.1159/000346602. Epub 2013 Feb 7
- Sabaratnam V, et al. Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help? J Tradit Complement Med. 2013 Jan-Mar; 3(1): 62–68. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.106549
- Petraglia AL, Winkler EA, Bailes JE. Stuck at the bench: Potential natural neuroprotective compounds for concussion. Surg Neurol Int. 2011; 2: 146. Published online 2011 Oct 12. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.85987
- Stojiljkovic M, et al. Treatment with Combination of B Vitamins Attenuate Glial Response to Cortical Injury. International Brain Injury Association. 0342