Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs because of sudden damage to the brain. The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” It is impossible to provide an accurate answer to the question: does TBI cause personality changes as the answer is variable. The specific symptoms that develop because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. For some individuals, a TBI may only affect the exact location on the brain where the injury occurred, while for others a TBI could also affect surrounding tissues and cause damage to one’s brain in other areas, apart from the initial site.
The American Psychological Association explains that “personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” Sustaining a TBI could lead to a plethora of adverse physiological symptoms, including affecting an individual’s cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, learning, abstract thinking, and complex idea comprehension. Any of these symptoms can cause an individual’s personality to shift, regardless of the location of injury to one’s brain. However, research has found that individuals that have endured a TBI to the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved in planning, self-control, and decision making) are more likely to experience personality changes. When the prefrontal cortex is compromised, individuals are forced to rely on the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with impulses, emotions, aggression, instinctive behavior, and plays a role in sexual activity and libido) when reacting to certain stimuli. Hence, a TBI can cause an individual to lack impulse control, and experience emotional dysregulation, which can contribute to a shift in one’s personality. While a scientifically conclusive answer regarding whether a TBI causes personality changes remains unknown, though not inevitable it is possible for a TBI to cause an individual to experience personality changes.
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