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What is a TBI, How Can it Affect the Brain and What Can Be Done to Boost Cognitive Skills?

What is a TBI, How Can it Affect the Brain and What Can Be Done to Boost Cognitive Skills?

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when the brain is severely jarred or penetrated, causing damage to nerves and impairing function. The consequences of a TBI are determined by which parts of the brain sustain the injury.

Anatomy of the brain

The brain is divided into two hemispheres—the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is responsible for attention, memory, reasoning and problem solving. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is responsible for language, thought and memory.

Looking closer, there are six parts of the brain: brain stem, cerebellum, frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe and temporal lobe. Each part is responsible for different functions.

That’s why, when a person sustains a TBI, their symptoms can look entirely different from the next person’s. TBIs can affect a person’s physical body as well as their cognition and behavior.

TBIs can affect six primary cognitive functions

These functions include:

  • Attention
  • Processing and understanding information
  • Memory
  • Planning and organizing
  • Reasoning and problem solving
  • Behavior
  • Communication

Below is a brief description of how a TBI can affect each of these cognitive functions and some ideas that a person can implement to adjust to life with these challenges...


Brain injury can make it difficult for a person to pay attention or stay focused.

What helps?

Try decreasing distractions in your work environment or even distractions in your own mind. Don’t try to multitask but instead maintain a singular focus as much as possible and break large tasks down into smaller ones.

Processing and understanding information

Brain injury can make it challenging to process what others say. It can also be difficult to process written information. A person’s reaction rate can be reduced as well.

What helps?

Give yourself grace! Allow more time to process information. Pore over information multiple times for better understanding. Take notes. Ask people to repeat themselves and repeat what you thought they said to make sure you’re both on the same page.


Brain injury can impact short-term and long-term memory. It can be hard to remember events and recall details of conversations and it can make learning new concepts especially challenging.

What helps?

Stick to a daily routine so you can rely on the consistency of events. Take notes on your phone or in a notebook during important conversations. Give yourself plenty of time to study new information. Again, try your best to minimize distractions in your environment, especially when you’re engaging with others or learning new material.

Planning and organizing

Brain injury can make it difficult to plan your workday or your family’s schedule. It can be hard to stay organized and tackle all of your responsibilities.

What helps?

Keep a list on your phone or in a notebook of things you need to accomplish (work tasks, appointments you need to schedule and attend, your children’s sports practices and lessons, etc.) If you use your phone for your list, set reminders or alarms so you don’t miss important to-dos.

Reasoning and problem solving

Brain injury can impact your ability to find the best solution to a problem

What helps?

We all “get by with a little help,” right? Find trustworthy people in your community that you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you safely and effectively navigate problems you encounter and decisions you have to make.


Brain injury can make it difficult to manage emotions and control impulses. It can also make it challenging to choose a safe course of action as opposed to an unsafe one.

What helps?

Again, designate trustworthy people in your community who will support you when anxiety, depression or difficult emotions surface. Also, before you make a decision, consider the outcome and how it could affect you and your loved ones.


From finding the right words to convey your thoughts to expressing yourself with proper facial expressions or understanding what others are saying, brain injury can make both verbal and non-verbal communication difficult.

What helps?

Take your time when communicating with others. Speak slowly and clearly. When other people are speaking, ask them to repeat themselves or speak slower. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification.

Brain training boosts cognitive functioning

There are a vast number of ways to adapt to life with TBI-induced weak cognitive functions. But did you know that you can also boost those cognitive functions so it’s easier to pay attention, process information, remember information, plan and organize, problem solve, make safe choices and deal with difficult emotions and communicate? It’s true!

At LearningRx, we often work with TBI patients to boost weak cognitive skills through our powerful and effective brain training therapy. Brain training helps create new neural pathways in the brain to restore lost cognitive function, making day-to-day life much easier.

When you first connect with us, we will have you complete a cognitive skills assessment. This gives us insight into which cognitive skills have been compromised by the traumatic brain injury. Then we can create a customized brain training plan to boost those weak areas.

The statistics speak for themselves. We performed a study where we looked at 386 child and adult TBI clients who attended our clinics over the course of nine years. These clients made the greatest gains in long-term memory, auditory processing and broad attention. Long-term memory improved an average of 3.9 years over the course of our clients’ therapy.

You’ll also want to check out this encouraging story from Jim, one of our TBI clients, and hear about his transformational experience working with LearningRx.

If you or your loved one has suffered cognitive losses as the result of a traumatic brain injury, reach out to LearningRx to hear more about our services! Visit our website or contact us here.