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What can the change in brain chemistry actually make you feel following a concussion?

Image by Joshua Fuller
Image by Luke Stackpoole

Depression, Addiction, and PTSD can all follow a TBI

Why Depression?

Brain injury can give rise to a host of psychiatric disorders and depression is one of the most common, in fact 20-60% of TBI's result in a following depression.


The depression in this case is associated with reduced serotonin levels which disruptions in brain circuitry, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, basal ganglia. 


The “basal ganglia” refers to a group of subcortical nuclei responsible primarily for motor control, one of the key reasons for the loss in coordination following a TBI, as well as other roles such as motor learning, executive functions and behaviors and emotions. So the disruption of the basal ganglia network forms the basis for several of the mood and movement symptoms following a TBI.


Blast Induced Neuro Trauma (BIN), is a relatively unique type of concussion described by the military. Being within a blast radius will expose you to multiple rapid sub concussive rattles, the high density of shockwaves rapidly passaging through the brain after a blast causes a very similar effect to physically taking a direct blow to the head.


This is the reason why 20% of solders returning from tours will report symptoms of TBI. The adjustments in neurochemistry as a result of the TBI can contribute to the most spoken about psychiatric disorder for returning military personnel, PTSD.  


Why Addiction?

A population study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences found that 1-3 years after injury TBI sufferers are twice as likely to report binge drinking. This is something to bare in mind personally, and make sure you continue to look out for your team mates even after you have hung your boots up.

Beware that 15% of people experience chronic symptoms following a concussion and complicating matters further the symptoms can arise months or years after the actual injury. This can make it very difficult to identify the cause of depression or addiction.

The Prefrontal Cortex is a part of the brain located  just behind your forhead. It is implicated in a variety of complex behaviors, including planning, and greatly contributes to personality.

Amygdala, region of the brain primarily associated with emotional processes.

Hippocampus has a major role in learning and memory. It is a plastic and vulnerable structure that gets damaged by a variety of stimuli. Studies have shown that it also gets affected in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
  1. 1. Laskowski, R.A., Creed, J.A. and Raghupathi, R. (2015). Pathophysiology of Mild TBI: Implications for Altered Signaling Pathways. [online] PubMed. Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021].

  2. Kim, E., Lauterbach, E.C., Reeve, A., Arciniegas, D.B., Coburn, K.L., Mendez, M.F., Rummans, T.A. and Coffey, E.C. (2007). Neuropsychiatric Complications of Traumatic Brain Injury. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 19(2), pp.106–127.

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