© 1998 Head Injury Hotline
pages linked in this section of our web site lists medical terms commonly
associated with brain injury. Entries in this glossary have been
simplified for ease of understanding by lay
A Brain Injury Survivor's Guide
in this section were drawn from Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary,
14th edition, 1981, Mosby's Medical and Nursing Dictionary, 2nd edition,
1986, The Merck Manual, 13th edition, 1977, DSM-IV. See our Resources
on and links to these and other medical reference materials.
the entries below have been linked to corresponding pages of this site
that contain related information on the topic.
on this site is not intended as a substitute for qualified medical and/or
- the correct skills and/or mental and physical fitness to perform
in a competent way.
ABNORMAL - different
from the average; inappropriate with regard to the standards of society,
social role or the existing set of circumstances.
an objective, detached, impersonal state of mind.
- a concept or idea not related to any specific instance or object and
which potentially can be applied to many different situations or objects.
People with cognitive deficits often have difficulty understanding abstract
- the ability to apply abstract concepts to situations and surroundings.
It is characterized by adaptability in the use of ideas and generalization.
ACTING OUT -
impulsive; anti-social behavior.
the inability to perform simple problems of arithmetic.
ACUITY - sharpness
or quality of a sensation. Keenness of perception.
ACUTE - sharp,
severe. 2. Having rapid onset, severe symptoms and a short course.
The early stages of an injury (as opposed to chronic, which is long term).
/ ASSISTIVE EQUIPMENT - a special device which assists in
the performance of self care, work, play or leisure activities.
ADL - activities
of daily living. Routine activities carried out for personal hygiene and
health such as eating, dressing, grooming, shaving, etc. Nurses,
occupational and physical therapists are the main coaches for ADL, which
is sometimes called DLS or daily living skills.
- support; help, promoting a cause.
feeling tones; emotions; the outward signs of individual emotions.
having to do with emotions.
a state of restless activity such as pacing, crying or laughing without
- a state of irritability; combativeness.
AGNOSIA - failure
to recognize familiar objects although the sensory mechanism is intact.
May occur for any sensory modality.
OR DRUG DEPENDENCY - extreme dependence on excessive
amounts of alcohol and/or drugs.
- contradictory feelings about an object, person or action, emotion,
idea, situation, etc. .
AMNESIA - lack
of memory about events occurring during a particular period of time.
- a balloon-like deformity in the wall of a blood vessel. The wall weakens
as the balloon grows larger, and may eventually burst, causing a hemorrhage.
- is a very basic human emotion. It plays an important role in the way
we communicate with others. It communicates strong feelings of displeasure
and rage. Generally speaking, the word "anger"
expresses the emotion but does not necessarily convey intensity, justification,
and "form" of the anger.
- inability to recall names of objects. Persons with this problem often
can speak fluently but have to use other words to describe familiar objects.
ANOSMIA - loss
of the sense of smell. SYN: anodmia
ANOXIA - a lack
of oxygen. Cells of the brain need oxygen to stay alive. When blood flow
to the brain is reduced or when oxygen in the blood is too low, brain cells
ANTERIOR - front.
- inability to consolidate information about ongoing events. Difficulty
forming new memories. Shrot- term annesia.
- front and to the side.
- gront and to the back.
ANTIBODY - a
protein produced by the immune system to attack bacteria, viruses or other
invading disease producing agents. Each antibody has a molecular structure
that exactly fits the structure of each foreign body (antigen) like a key
and a lock. Antibodies are carried in the blood. It is also common to add
antibodies to treat specific disease antigens if we lack immunities to
- meditation used to decrease the possibility of a seizure (e.g., Dilantin,
Phenobarbital, Mysoline, Tegrtol).
- a drug prescribed to treat depression; standard tricyclic antidepressants
include Tofranil, Imvate, Elavil, Norpramin, and Adapin. Side effects include
some sedation, dry mouth, and visual problems. Another type of emotional
problem often mistaken for depression is "emotional lability", which is
characterized by, for example, sudden laughter changing to weeping.
BEHAVIOR - behavior which is contrary to the customs,
standards and moral principles accepted by society.
feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, agitation, uncertainty and fear because
of threat or danger.
indifference. Lack of emotiom, concern or interest.
- the change in language function due to an injury to the cerebral cortex
of brain. It causes partial or total loss of ability to express oneself
and/or to understand language.
APRAXIA - the
inability to produce voluntary speech due to a deficit in motor (muscle)
programming caused by brain damage.
- the middle of three membranes protecting the brain and spinal cord.
being awake. Primitive state of alertness managed by the reticular activating
system (extending from medulla to the thalamus in the core of the brainstem)
activating the cortex. Cognition is not possible without some degree of
- a very thin tube (catheter) inserted into an artery to allow direct measurement
of the blood pressure, the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in
- movement of the lips, tongue, teeth and palate into specific patterns
for purposes of speech. Also, a movable joint.
an evaluation of a patient based on the following information:
1. the subjective report of the symptoms by the patient. 2. the progress
of the illness or condition. 3. the objective findings of the examiner
based on tests, physical examination and medical history.
a problem of muscle coordination not due to apraxia, weakness, rigidity,
spasticity or sensory loss. Caused by lesion of the cerebellum or basal
ganglia. Can interfere with a person's ability to walk, talk, eat and to
perform other self care tasks.
the ability to focus on given task or set of stimuli for an appropriate
period of time.
- impaired ability to concentrate.
- one who evaluates hearing defects and who aids in the rehabilitation
of those who have such defects.
automatic actions or behavior without conscious volition or knowledge.
Such episodes might last for a few minutes or a few days. During
such episodes, the person appears normal but, is actually in a trance like
state. While in such a state the person is not responsible for his acts
and should not be left alone. He may carry out complicated
acts without remembering having done so. Such episodes have been
associated with severe emotional distress and temporal motor epilepsy.
AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
- the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary activities,
including heart muscle, glands, and smooth muscle tissue. The autonomic
nervous system is subdivided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
Sympathetic activities are marked by the flight or fight emergency response,
initiated by way of the transmitter norepinephrine (adrenaline).
Parasympathetic activities are known by lowered blood pressure, pupil contradiction
and slowing of
AXON - the nerve
fiber that carries an impulse from the nerve cell to a target, and also
carries materials from the nerve terminals back to the nerve cell. When
an axon is cut, proteins required for
its regeneration are made available by the nerve cell body. A growth
cone forms at the tip of the axon. In the spinal cord, a damaged axon is
often prepared to re-grow, and often has available a supply of materials
to do so. Scientists believe it is the toxic environment that surrounds
the axon, and not the genetic programming of the axon itself, that prevents