Dictionary

A dictionary of brain injury, and related health, medical, and disability, terms.

abstract thought
Thinking about concepts rather than factual information.

acquired brain injury
Acquired Brain Injury is the “multiple disabilities arising from damage to the brain acquired after birth. It results in deterioration in cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning. It can be as a result of accidents, stroke, brain tumours, infection, poisoning, lack of oxygen, degenerative neurological disease etc.” (The National Community Services Data Dictionary (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, 2012)

acute care
Short-term medical treatment, usually in a hospital, for patients having an acute illness, injury, or recovering from surgery.

activities of daily living
Routine activities carried out for personal hygiene and health (including bathing, dressing, feeding) and for running a household.

adynamia
Loss of motivation, difficulty with initiating activities, gives the appearance of lethargy.

agnosia
Inability to recognise familiar objects or sounds, although functioning of the sense organs and intelligence are normal.

aneurysm
A blood-filled sac formed through stretching of an artery or blood vessel. The stretching of the artery or blood vessel may be caused by disease. The wall of the artery or blood vessel weakens as the sac grows larger, and may eventually burst, causing a haemorrhage.

anosmia
Complete or partial loss of the sense of smell.

anterograde amnesia
Inability to create new memories after the cause of amnesia (e.g., an accident, or trauma), leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past. Long-term memories from before the cause of amnesia are not affected.

aphasia
Loss of the ability to speak (or understand language).

apathy
A direct result of brain injury to frontal lobe structures which concern emotion, motivation and forward planning.

apraxia
Inability to carry out learned movement or activity.

assistive technology
The full range of technological solutions that allow people with disability to be more independent, more connected, and provide opportunities for them to realise their potential as active members of their families, schools, workplaces and communities. Beyond the traditional aids and equipment used by people with disability, including home and vehicle modifications, prosthetics and hearing aids, it includes devices used by people without disabilities (for example, smartphones, tablets and apps) that are offering new ways to form connections and increase participation.

ataxia
Inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements, resulting in reduced ability to walk, talk, eat, or perform self-care tasks.

axon/dendrites
Parts of nerve cells in the brain which look like small hair-like tentacles. The cells receive information via the dendrites and communicate with each other by passing electrical signals down the axons and releasing chemical signals at their ends.

behaviour management
A specific behaviour is identified and an intervention method is designed. Positive reinforcement is used to encourage desired behaviour; negative reinforcement is used to discourage unwanted behaviour.

brain plasticity
The ability of intact brain nerve cells (neurones) to make new connections and, in some cases, take over functions of damaged cells. Neuronal plasticity plays a crucial role in memory and diminishes as a person gets older.

brainstem
The lower extension of the brain where it connects to the spinal cord. Neurological functions located in the brain stem include those necessary for survival (breathing, heart rate) and for arousal (being awake and alert).

carer
Someone who provides personal care, support and assistance to a person with disability and who is not contracted as a paid or voluntary worker.

case management
Enables a patient to access appropriate medical, rehabilitation and support programs, and services.

catheter
A tube which is inserted into any body part to withdraw or introduce fluids.

cerebrum
The largest part of the human brain associated with higher order functioning, such as thinking, perceiving, planning, and understanding language, as well as the control of voluntary behavior.

cerebellum
Area at the back of the brain, below the cerebral hemispheres, involved in the control of movement, co-ordination, posture and balance.

cerebral
Concerning the brain.

cerebral cortex
A sheet of tissue covering the outermost layer of the cerebrum.

cerebrospinal fluid
A liquid found within the ventricles of the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord.

cerebrovascular accident
Also stroke. Where blood supply to the brain is stopped by a clot or bleeding.

co-design
A design process which empowers, encourages, and guides users to develop solutions for themselves.

cognition
Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

cognitive disability
Cognitive disability involves challenges in thinking, concentrating, reacting to emotions, formulating ideas, problem-solving, reasoning and remembering.

coma
A state of unconsciousness from which the patient cannot be woken or aroused, even by powerful stimulation.

community services
Activities and services such as social, study, sporting or other interests, available from local non-government groups and government entities.

concussion
The common result of a blow to the head or sudden deceleration usually causing an altered mental state, either temporary or prolonged.

confabulation
Statements about people, places, and events with no basis in reality.

craniectomy
Surgical removal of the skull in small pieces.

computed tomography scan
Computed Tomography (CT) is a scan that creates a series of cross-sectional X-rays of the head and brain. It is often taken soon after a brain injury to help decide if surgery is needed. The scan may be repeated later to see how the brain is recovering.

declarative memory
The ability to learn and consciously remember everyday facts and events.

depression
A psychiatric disorder characterized by sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, loss of interest in life, reduced emotional well­being, and abnormalities in sleep, appetite, and energy level.

degenerative neurological disease
Conditions including Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease are caused by abnormal changes to brain cells in regions of the brain.

diffuse axonal injury
A brain injury involving shearing of large nerve fibres in many areas of the brain rather than in one specific location.

diffuse brain injury
Injury to cells in many areas of the brain rather than in one specific location.

diplopia
Double vision.

disinhibition
Inability to suppress impulsive behaviours and emotions.

dysarthria
Difficulty in forming words or speaking them because of weakness of muscles used in speaking, leading to slurred or difficult to understand speech. Often affects skills associated with the same muscles, such as swallowing.

dyskinesia
Altered ability to control and coordinate voluntary muscles resulting in clumsy movements or inability to produce some actions.

dysphagia
A swallowing disorder characterised by difficulty in oral preparation for the swallow, or in moving material from the mouth to the stomach. This also includes problems in positioning food in the mouth.

dysphasia
Mild form of aphasia. Involves difficulty in understanding and using language.

dyspraxia
Partial loss of the ability to do purposeful movements while still being able to move and be aware of movement. (See apraxia.)

early intervention
Providing support early in a child’s life or after the appearance of disability to reduce the effects of disability and to improve functional capacity.

electroencephalography
Electroencephalography (EEG) is a test used to record any changes in electrical activity of the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp. An EEG is used in the testing for epilepsy, coma and brain death.

electromyography
Electromyography (EMG) is a test involving the insertion of needle electrodes into muscles to study the electrical activity of muscle and nerve fibres. It may be somewhat painful to the patient. Helps diagnose damage to nerves or muscles.

epilepsy
Disorders of the central nervous system characterised primarily by seizures, which may vary in degree of frequency or severity.

episodic memory
Memory of ongoing events in a person’s life.

executive functions
The capacity to formulate, plan, and carry out plans effectively.

focal brain injury
Injury restricted to one region (as opposed to diffuse).

frontal lobes
Front part of the brain involved in planning, organizing, problem-solving, personality, and cognition (thinking).

functional magnetic resonance imaging
A technology that uses magnetic fields to detect activity in the brain by monitoring blood flow.

glasgow coma scale
A score given to head injured patients starting immediately after the head injury to measure the degree of unconsciousness. A score of 7 or less indicates that the person is in a coma. A maximum score of 15 indicates that the person can speak coherently, obey commands to move, and can spontaneously open their eyes.

glasgow outcome scale
A scale for classifying the outcome of brain injury.

grandiosity
Overestimation of personal abilities and ambitions. It may come across to other people as boastfulness, bragging, or excessive self-praise.

grey matter
Nerve cell bodies in the brain, which have a greyish appearance and make up the cerebral cortex.

haematoma
The collection of blood in tissues or a space following rupture of a blood vessel.

hemiparesis
Weakness on one side of the body.

hemiplegia
Paralysis affecting one side of the body.

hippocampus
A structure on the inner surface of the temporal lobes, which is made up mainly of grey matter and has an important role in memory processes. Damage to the hippocampus may lead to memory problems.

hypoxia
Insufficient oxygen reaching the tissues of the body. This may be because the blood in the lungs does not receive enough oxygen, or because there is not enough blood to receive oxygen, or because the blood stagnates in the body.

infection
Bacterial or viral infections can lead to an inflammation of the brain covering (meningitis) or the brain tissue itself (encephalitis).

information, linkages and capacity building
The term used by Australian governments to describe the activities that will be supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to promote the social and economic inclusion of people with a disability including people not receiving individualised funded support from the NDIS (formally known as “Tier 2”). The activities include providing information and making linkages and referral to community or mainstream services, building the capacity of people with a disability, families and carers, building community capacity, building mainstream service provider capacity, and local area coordination.

insight
The extent to which an individual accurately judges one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

korsakoff’s syndrome
Brain injury due to lack of thiamine (Vitamin B1) caused by chronic alcoholism, and the severe malnutrition that often accompanies it. Korsakoff’s is a worsening condition of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy.

lability
Exhibiting rapid and drastic changes in emotional state (e.g., laughing, crying, anger) inappropriately without apparent reason.

lived experience of disability
Either personally living with disability or having a close relationship with a person with disability (for example, a family member or partner).

long-term memory
The final phase of memory, in which information storage may last from hours to a lifetime.

magnetic resonance imaging
Scanning by machine to take detailed pictures of the brain, central nervous system, musculoskeletal systems and soft tissues using a strong magnet rather than X-rays.

myelin
A fatty insulating sheath, which surrounds nerve axons and improves the efficiency of transmission of the electrical nerve impulses along them.

national disability insurance agency
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is an independent statutory agency. The NDIA’s role is to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

national disability insurance scheme
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides support for Australians with disability, their families and carers.

neurologist
A physician who specialises in the nervous system and its disorders.

neuroscientist
Scientist who specializes in the study of the brain and the nervous system.

neuron
A nerve cell.

neuropsychologist
A psychologist who specialises in evaluating, with tests, brain/behaviour relationships, planning training programs to help someone with brain injury to return to normal functioning, and recommending alternative cognitive and behavioural ways to minimise the effects of brain injury.

neuro-transmitters
Chemicals made in the nervous system that serve as messengers, aiding or interfering with the functions of the nerve cells.

occipital lobe
Area in the back of the brain whose primary function is processing visual information. Damage to this area can cause difficulties in vision.

occupational therapy
Occupational therapy is the therapeutic use of self-care, work, and play activities to increase independent function, enhance development, and prevent disability.

paraplegia
Paralysis of the lower limbs (from the waist down).

people with disability
A person who experiences any or all of the following: impairments (abnormalities or changes in body function or structure); activity limitations (difficulties in carrying out usual age-appropriate activities); participation restrictions (problems an individual may experience engaging in community, social and family life).

perseveration
Getting stuck on a word, an idea, or an activity, and not being able to move on from it.

person-centred approach
Places the person with disability at the centre of decision making in terms of their own care needs.

physiotherapist
Physiotherapists work to maintain and improve the movement and function of joints and limbs.

post-concussion syndrome
A group of symptoms occurring after minor head injury that may persist for days, weeks, or months.

post-traumatic amnesia
Refers to the period immediately following a Traumatic Brain Injury when the person is confused, disoriented, and unable to remember day-to-day events. PTA can last for hours, days or weeks, depending upon the severity of injury to the brain.

proprioception
Awareness of the position of the body parts with or without movement.

psychosocial disability
Disabilities that may arise from mental health issues.

quadriplegia
Weakness or paralysis affecting all four limbs.

registered service provider
A disability support provider that has met the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s requirements.

retrograde amnesia
Inability to access memories, or information that was learned, before an injury or a disease.

seizure
An uncontrolled discharge of nerve cells which may spread to other cells nearby or throughout the entire brain. It usually lasts only a few minutes. Seizure may be associated with loss of consciousness, loss of bowel and bladder control and tremors. May also cause aggression or other behavioural changes.

short-term memory
A phase of memory in which a limited amount of information may be held for several seconds or minutes.

shunt
A procedure to draw off excessive fluid in the brain. A surgically placed tube runs from the ventricles in the brain taking excess fluid away draining it into the abdomen, heart or neck veins.

social worker
Social workers assist with the emotional and social needs of people with an Acquired Brain Injury and their families.

spasticity
An involuntary increase in muscle tone following brain injury, which may produce tightness or stiffness of the limb muscles and interfere with movement and walking.

speech therapist
Speech therapists are responsible for the evaluation and treatment of disabilities with speech and language, auditory, cognitive (comprehension), attention, writing, reading, and expression skills.

spinal cord
A bundle of nerve fibers running through the vertebral column that allows communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

stroke
A cerebrovascular accident. Where blood supply to the brain is stopped by a clot or bleeding.

synapse
A physical gap between two neurons that functions as the site of information transfer from one neuron to another.

temporal lobes
The temporal lobes are the parts of the brain that control speech, memory, and hearing.

therapeutic hypothermia
Artificial cooling may be used to lower the core body temperature, as a means of reducing the metabolism of brain cells and decreasing their oxygen requirement. There is some evidence that this may have a protective effect on the brain following cardiac arrest and in other anoxic states, although this remains controversial.

tier 2
See information, linkages and capacity building.

transitional living program
Primary emphasis is to provide training for living in a setting with less dependence on others.

traumatic brain injury
An injury to the brain due to force applied to the head from, for example, a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or an assault.

tremor
Regular repetitive movements which may be worse either at rest or on attempted movement.

tumour
Tumours cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue and structures as they grow within the brain.

ventricles
Cavities (spaces) inside the brain which contain cerebrospinal fluid.

verbosity
Excessive talking.

vertebral column
The column of bones, or vertebrae, that extends down the back and functions as a structural element for the body while also surrounding and protecting the spinal cord.

vestibular
System in the middle of the ear which senses movement. Injury can lead to dizziness.

wernicke’s encephalopathy
A brain injury caused by a severe deficiency of thiamine (Vitamin B1), usually associated with long-term alcoholism.

white matter
White coloured nerve tissue in the brain made up of myelin covered axons, which transmit electrical signals through the nervous system. The white matter lies underneath the grey matter of the cerebral cortex and white matter tracts travel down through the brainstem and into the spinal cord.

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