The difficulty understanding and predicting and treating brain injuries resides in the difficulties with brain science.
Recently Professor Gary Marcus wrote an excellent Op-Ed for the New York Times, The Trouble With Brain Science (7/12/14), discussing the limitations with the current working model of the brain and the difficulties in the filed of neuroscience.
These difficulties are evidenced in an open letter from hundreds of neuroscientists to the European Commission regarding the Human Brain Project. The scientists assert that the project is “overly narrow” and not “well conceived.” The Human Brain Project is a $1.6 Billion effort at creating a computer simulation and mapping of the human brain. It is founded and backed by the European Commission.
The controversy as explained by Professor Marcus is not so much that these scientists are against the project, but that many cannot agree on the best approach for the project because many cannot agree on how the brain actually works.
These difficulties and ever evolving ideas about the brain are seen in our changing theories of depression and how SSRIs work, in the alleged cause for alleged biological markers of diseases such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), learning disabilities, and theories on how the brain sustains injury and implements recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Professor Marcus asserts in his article that what is needed is a “bridge.” A bridge in this context would be something that connects two separate scientific theories. In this case, neuroscience and psychology. That bridge and the deeper and more accurate understanding of how the brain works, that it would generate, would serve victims of brain injuries and strokes just as it would serve any involved or touched by the field of brain science.
When someone sustains a traumatic brain injury of any level of severity, some recover better than others. This is no more apparent than in the realm of concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI).
After a concussion some injury victims exhibit symptoms immediately and some do not. Some only demonstrate symptoms months after the initial injury or trauma and some do not. Some injury victims sustain severe trauma with little to no post injury symptoms while others sustain serious and long term deficits that result from seemingly mild trauma or a slight initial injury.
The reason science cannot explain these discrepancies or predict with any accuracy the level of deficit and disability resulting from a brain injury, resides in the controversy presented by Professor Marcus. In other words, we are not at all certain about how the brain really works.
In the end, what is needed, as Professor Marcus points out, is more money spent on finding that bridge and connecting the two areas of science. This will better serve neuroscience, brain injury victims, and us all.