Traumatic brain & spinal cord injury

Traumatic brain injury refers to a change in brain function due to an event after birth. While acquired brain injuries can be caused by a number of factors, traumatic brain injuries are specifically caused by an accident, fall, or blunt force to the head. Brain injury can affect a person's cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning.

Spinal cord injuries are also most commonly caused by trauma including car crashes or sporting accidents, falls and blunt force to the spine. A spinal cord injury can cause paralysis from the neck or chest down, resulting in restricted mobility and feeling. For most people with a spinal injury, their spinal cord is still intact, but is damaged severely enough that it no long functions.

  • 700,000 Australians have a brain injury  

  • The average stay in hospital for an acquired spinal injury is 133 days

  • Two out of every three brain injuries happen before the age of 25   

Causes and treatment

For traumatic brain and spinal injuries, the cause in most cases is excessive force to the part of the body effected. When this happens the body's own protective measures - the skull and spine - cannot prevent damage to the spinal cord or brain, resulting in their injury.

Treatment for traumatic brain and spinal cord injury include surgery, rehabilitation and occupational therapy. This is to assist a person regain as much mobility, functionality and independence as possible.

How the Florey is making a difference

The Florey was a lead partner in developing the Stentrode, in conjunction with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne. The stentrode combines electrodes to record brain signals with a stent that sits in the blood vessel underlying the motor cortex.  This will allow an exoskeleton or electronic reader to be controlled by a paralysed person, for example a spinal injury patient or someone with motor neurone disease.

Our scientists are also exploring molecules in preclinical studies to allow regrowing nerves to cross the so-called 'glial scar' that forms on the spinal cord after a sever spinal cord injury.

We are investigating the role of zinc and zinc-modifying drugs in reducing the damage after a traumatic brain injury as well as in normal ageing and Alzheimer's disease.

 Support and information

 For further information on traumatic brain injury visit Brain Injury Australia or find the phone number for your State's brain injury assistance services. For further information on Spinal cord injuries call Spinal Cord Injuries Australia on 1800 819 775.

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