Spock’s damaged brain: TBI and elevated risk of early death

Brain Injuries | April 9, 2014

Science fiction stories are full of scenarios where brains are preserved after death.

In the original “Star Trek” series, for example, the brain of the iconic character Mr. Spock is hijacked by an alien civilization. The aliens repurpose it as a master computing device to control their life-support systems – leaving Mr. Spock’s body in a zombie-like state, on the verge of death.

Since this episode was made in the 1960s, research into how the mind works has progressed by leaps and bounds. But it is still true that any form of brain damage is potentially very serious, posing a threat to mind and body alike.

In this post, we will take note of recent research showing that suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can raise the risk of a premature death.

As we noted in our article on TBI survivors, a research study done in Sweden has called attention to this issue. The study’s data set included more than 150,000 people who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. The researchers followed up on the outcomes these people experienced over several decades.

What the researchers found was that suffering a TBI increased the likelihood that someone would die an untimely death due to suicide or an accident. Overall, people who had suffered a TBI that was more serious than a concussion were several times more likely to die early than people who have not suffered such damage.

It will of course require more research to understand how fully how brain trauma can lead to impaired brain function that increases the risk of suicide, fatal accidents and addictive behavior. But clearly the Swedish research is of concern to anyone who has suffered a TBI, as well as to the family and friends of someone whose brain has been injured.

It doesn’t’ matter whether the injury occurred in a car accident, while serving in the military, or in some other way. The toll of TBI is not only immediate; it may also be like a ticking time bomb that brings about an early death.