Traumatic Brain Injury & Memory

By: Denise M. Caldwell

What is TBI?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a form of an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) that includes injury, stroke, lesions, or brain illness that takes places after birth (Brain Injury Network, 2016). Specifically, it involves the following:
  • Loss of or diminish in consciousness, for any period of time
  • Any loss of memory for events that occurred immediately before or after the injury
  • Any alteration in mental state at the time of injury (confusion, disorientation, etc.)
  • Neurological deficits such as weakness, loss of balance, paresis/plegia, sensory loss, change in vision, praxis, etc.)
(Brain Injury Network, 2016).

Unfortunately, I know about the heart-wrenching affects of TBI all too well; for my precious little boy (Will, Jr. - now 14) was only 10 months old when he suffered a TBI while at daycare. Ruled a "non-accidental" traumatic event by doctors, which only added more misery to the situation, he slipped into unconsciousness and comatose state for what seemed like eternity. During this time of my living nightmare, doctors had prepared my husband and I for the worst: our son probably wouldn't wake up; and if he did he may never learn to walk, talk or lead any chance of a "normal" life. But we didn't pay this negative talk any mind, and instead relied on our faith to determine the outcome of our boy's life. It's been a very long and tedious journey, especially for our very strong, brave, and heroic Will, but he has made astonishing recoveries in the form of both small and large accomplishments in the physical, mental, and linguistic areas of his life. Still, I feel compelled to share the obstacles he continues to struggle with in hopes of not just raising awareness for those who know, care for, and work with our son; but I hope this knowledge will help even just one family who may be going through the same thing we did (and still are): to help their loved one remember life's most important cognitive functions, including memory.

Long-term Effects of TBI (Will's Daily Struggles):

  • Comprehension and processing information (understanding the underlying meaning of something he just read, or was given direction on how to do)
  • Seizures (have included grand mal, tonic, atonic, focal and partial)
  • Communication
  • Planning and organizing
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, decision making, and judgement
  • Impulse control and impatience
  • Attention and concentration
An important thing to note, memory is linked to many of these effects.

Ways To Improve Memory in TBI Survivors

If you or a loved one suffers from TBI, one of life's most traumatic and ongoing hurdles, here are a few tips and additional resources on how to help sharpen (and hold on to) their memory:

  • Put together a structured daily routine for all activities and tasks- and stick to them
  • Organize a specific location for keeping/storing things
  • Use memory aides such as notebooks, daily tasks lists, electronic reminder programs, flash or cue cards, and calendars
  • Get as much rest as possible, including at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
  • Set time aside to review old information, as well as learn new information by breaking down this new info into small parts
  • Keep a journal and write in it every day, to record your (or a loved one's) progress
(Neumann & Lequerica, n.d.).


Definitions of ABI and TBI. (2016). Brain Injury Network. Retrieved from

Gluck, M.A., Mercado, E., & Myers, C.E. (2014). Learning and memory: from brain to behavior. (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Neumann, D., & Lequerica, A. (n.d.). Cognitive problems after Traumatic Brain Injury. Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. Retrieved from

About Me

My name is Denise Caldwell, an upcoming summer 2016 graduate in the Science of Bachelors of Psychology at Baker College in Flint, MI. I have written several fictional short stories and poems, as well as countless non-fictional essays, research papers, and proposals over the course of my post-high school education. It is my goal to inspire others to share their stories of survival and success, to give hope and encouragement so others can to do the same.