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Researchers Find Possible Link Between TBI’s and Schizophrenia

Beyond visible bruises and broken bones, accidents pose the risk of damaging a person’s brain through a traumatic brain injury (TBI). While not every injury to the head will result in a TBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that a person may suffer a TBI after a bump to the head or penetrating head injury.

TBI’s can happen in a variety of ways. Common causes, however, may include automobile accidents, slips and falls, playing sports (especially contact sports such as football and hockey), and abuse or other violent acts.

TBI effects can vary from mild to severe, mild concussion-like symptoms to a prolonged comatose state. According the Mayo Clinic, TBI sufferers can experience a wide-range of symptoms and repercussions; depending on the location of the brain where the injury is sustained and the severity of the injury. These include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of consciousness – from a momentary loss to an extended period of time in a coma
  • Damage to sense of smell
  • Difficulty remembering, learning or reasoning
  • Issues with judgment or decision making
  • Problems speaking or writing or understanding these types of communication
  • Changes in emotion, such as suffering from anxiety or depression
  • Behavioral issues, such as with self-control, taking risks, or being prone to physical or verbal confrontation

The Mayo Clinic also notes that TBI’s may also increase the risk of developing a brain disorder or disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia pugilistica (which is most often associated with boxers). The results of a new study may add another brain disorder to the list: schizophrenia.

Link Between TBI and Schizophrenia?

A new study published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin in August of 2011, suggests that there is a link between schizophrenia and TBI’s. Past studies have explored this link; however, as MSNBC notes, the results of these studies are mixed.

The new study, led by Mary Cannon of the Royal College Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, reviewed the findings of nine former studies. The results and information used in these former studies was grouped and then analyzed to determine if there was a risk of developing schizophrenia after suffering a TBI.

While the study does not indicate that a TBI will cause schizophrenia, the results show that there is a link between the two. The study indicates a person is 1.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia after suffering a TBI, as compared to a person who does not suffer a TBI. The study results further indicated that if there is a family history of schizophrenia, a person is 2.8 times more likely to develop schizophrenia after suffering a TBI.

While the study found a link between TBI and schizophrenia, the study did not find that there was a link between the severity of the TBI suffered and the likelihood of developing schizophrenia. MSNBC notes that the study’s researchers stated that it may be the location on the brain where the TBI happens and other factors that lead to the development of schizophrenia.

Further, MSNBC quoted New York University professor of psychiatry and environmental medicine Dr. Dolores Malaspina as saying that it is possible that a TBI acts as a “trigger” for the development of schizophrenia for those that have a predisposition to the development of the disease. Dr. Malaspina also noted that persons in the early stages of schizophrenia are at an increased risk of suffering a TBI – as the onset of the disease could leave these persons susceptible to accidents that result in brain trauma.

Further studies will need to be conducted to verify the link between TBI and schizophrenia.


According to the Mayo Clinic, schizophrenia is a chronic condition of severe brain disorders that cause the sufferers to “interpret reality abnormally.” Sufferers of schizophrenia often require lifelong care as the disorder causes a sufferers’ ability to provide care for themselves.

The Mayo Clinic states that the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia usually manifest in persons in their 20s or 30s, and that is rare for children or older adults to develop the disorder. The Mayo Clinic puts the symptoms of schizophrenia into three categories: Positive (normal functions are distorted), negative (normal functions are diminished) and cognitive (issues with thought processes).

Positive symptoms may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts and speaking coherently
  • Behavioral issues

Negative symptoms may include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in everyday activities
  • Diminished ability to plan or follow through on plans
  • Diminished ability to care for oneself, including personal hygiene

Cognitive symptoms may include:

  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty in processing or understanding information
  • Problems paying attention

Seek Help After Suffering a TBI

Traumatic brain injuries happen all too often as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Due to the serious nature of the condition, Ohio motor vehicle accident lawyers advise those injured to seek medical attention and plan for rehabilitation for the after effects of a TBI.

Beyond any immediate medical and rehabilitative costs, the development of a brain disease or disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease or (possibly) schizophrenia, could require expensive long-term care.