Update about a year and a half after the traumatic shooting – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords leads the Democratic National Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Update 10 months later- an amazing recovery for a very incredible woman! The following video is a clip from the 20/20 Diane Sawyer interview for 20/20 which aired on November 14, 2011
The following was written when the tragic shooting first happened ten months ago. Below are some medical answers as to why there is always hope even in light of severe brain injuries which may help others who need this information! Congratulations Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords!
In a positive attempt to bring some hope to the family of Congresswoman Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords, knowing that the bullet damaged the speech and language center of her brain, this blog is devoted to bringing awareness to the power of the human brain to heal, and the power of the human spirit to overcome even great injuries and tragedies.
I was told the bullet went in through the left hemisphere which is where the speech and language area of the brain is centered. There is so much more awareness supported by research today about the placidity of the brain and it’s ability to repair damage from various reasons including traumatic brain injury.
It’s good to keep in mind that even those that have had one whole half of their brain removed can regain speech and other skills.
It’s wise to be aware there are studies that show the importance of the body receiving essential and branched chain amino acids and good nutrition in general, and to start right after the injury for greatest outcomes
The first time I heard about a hemispherectomy, which is removal of one side of the brain, I was shocked to learn how quickly the brain bounces back and works to regain skills that were previously dominant in the now missing hemisphere.
In most cases this surgery is done for individuals who have severe seizures which are impacting on normal life and may even be life threatening. The following is a segment from Discovery about hemispherectomy in 2 parts.
And yes there are those who have had their left hemisphere removed who speak after years of therapy.
“Language is also controlled primarily by one hemisphere–the left. After a left hemispherectomy, patients often develop expressive aphasia. They understand language but have trouble remembering the correct words when they speak…. In the case of expressive aphasia, left hemispherectomy patients eventually regain language abilities by using the right half of the brain.”
Mind over matter: Christina Santhouse is a straight-A student even though she has only half her brain – Health
*Note to those considering partial brain removal for treatment of seizures, please read ‘Is Nutriiveda Creating a Paradigm Shift in the Treatment of Seizures?”
The Left and the Right
Most of us have language based primarily in the left hemisphere once we learn to speak. However while first learning language, or first learning say a new language, we use both the right and left hemisphere -and while still learning we all sound “very hesitant, broken sounding”
Don’t believe that? How do you say “hello” or “thank you” in Spanish? Most of you know so if you were to answer it would be an auto response (primarily in the left hemisphere) Your answer would be clear and quick. Now say someone teaches you how to say the word “sure” or “very much” in Spanish. A day or so later -someone comes up to you and asks you “How do you say sure or very much in Spanish” You probably will answer “very hesitant, broken sounding” because according to brain scans -while learning you would be using both the right and left sides of the brain. The words would not yet be in your “motor memory” or in the language center -the left hemisphere.
Those with normal speech connections use the left hemisphere for speech and language, but it has been found in brain scans that those with various types of speech impairments use the right hemisphere as well. Most of the research monies have been in stuttering however in studies of other speech impaired individuals this also appears to hold true.
“The emergence of brain imaging has increased interest in exploring the long-held concept that persons who stutter have greater right hemisphere involvement in speech production than fluent speakers (Travis, 1978). By contrasting fluency-enhancing speaking conditions with those exacerbating stuttering, brain imaging studies have found increased activation in premotor regions bilaterally and greater right hemisphere involvement during stuttering.”
Stuttering: dysfunction in a complex and dynamic system
“Positron-emission tomographic (PET) imaging studies of brain blood flow have revealed striking differences in the brain physiology of stutterers and non-stutterers. Most active areas are assumed to have high blood flow. It turns out that stutterers may be using the wrong side of their brains when they speak. The right hemisphere seems to be interrupted or interfering with the left hemisphere ((1)). PET scans of non-stutterers show both hemispheres lighting up when they speak, with more activity on the left. More activation of the left hemisphere occurs since the left side of the brain commands language. By contrast, a stutterer has more hot spots on the right, possibly interfering with what should be left-sided speech production. Interestingly, stutterers’ scans start to resemble those of non-stutterers during moments of fluency of speech. When stutterers imagined that they are stuttering, the strange brain patterns emerge even though the stutterer does not actually move his or her mouth or produce sound ((1)). When stutterers imagine the act of stuttering, they recreate the emotions and feelings they experience from stuttering. The memory of the emotions associated with stuttering lock in and causes similar brain patterns of the actual situation of stuttering. Is the imagined experience of stuttering perceived as reality to the stutterer?”
“IIIII Can Can Can’t Heeeelp It: Stuttering to the Truth”
“Although the left hemisphere has long been known to be the primary hub of language activity in the brain, Neville has discovered that both hemispheres can play a role in certain situations.
For example, early users of ASL, whether deaf or hearing, employ both the left and right hemispheres when reading ASL, whereas late ASL-users rely solely on the left hemisphere. Neville suggests that the right hemisphere helps analyze the shape, motion and location of words in a signed sentence, known as its spatial syntax, however there are time limits on when a person can recruit it for this purpose.”
New Lessons in How Brain Acquires Language Offered at Seminar
Most of us don’t know exactly what areas of the brain may be damaged or why neurons may not be firing the way they should, but by stimulating various senses you may get through a different channel. There are so many multisensory therapies to approach this way and I cover this in the book I co authored The Late Talker. Here’s an article on this called Therapeutic Stimulation from Medical Journal Medicine Online
And as the brain responds to multiple stimuli it’s proven as well that a nutritionally rich diet including all of the essential nutrients is vitally important for best prognosis after any type of brain injury, or for neurological health in general. Here are a few articles on this:
Nutritional Needs of Traumatic Brain Injury Patients
“If the results in mice can be reproduced in people, patients with traumatic brain injuries could receive the BCAAs in a drink.”~ Akiva S. Cohen, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Contributor: Demas Rosenthal
SUMMARY: Once a traumatic brain injury patient’s condition has been stabilized, a special nutritional plan must be created and put into immediate effect. According to New York neurosurgeon Robert Hartl, M.D. and other experts, there seems to be a direct relationship between long-term survival of TBI patients and early nutritional intervention.
In fact, a six-year, New York State trauma center study revealed that the TBI patients who did not receive adequate nutrition through stomach (or other) tubes during the first five days following their injuries were twice as likely to die than those who received such care. Furthermore, if these patients were not provided with the proper nutrition during the first seven days after they were injured, they were four times more like to die than the TBI patients who received such care.
“This review suggests that early feeding may be associated with a trend towards better outcomes in terms of survival and disability. Further trials are required. These trials should report not only nutritional outcomes but also the effect on death and disability.”
Nutritional support for head-injured patients
Supplemented BCAAs may improve the recovery from a vegetative or minimally conscious state in patients with posttraumatic vegetative or minimally conscious state.
Branched-chain amino acids may improve recovery from a vegetative or minimally conscious state in patients with traumatic brain injury: a pilot study.
There are numerous other articles and research to the importance of essential fatty acids and essential amino acids and nutrients as well for neuro function and repair. And regarding some of the animal studies linking amino acids to neuro repair as found in current research: “neurology researchers have shown that feeding amino acids to brain-injured animals restores their cognitive abilities and may set the stage for the first effective treatment for cognitive impairments suffered by people with traumatic brain injuries”
Prayers to all those affected by the Tucson shooting tragedy, including sadly those that were killed.
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Written by Lisa Geng, mother to two boys that were both “late talkers” who are doing great today. President and Founder of the Cherab Foundation, and Co Author of The Late Talker book St Martin’s Press