Posted on February 17, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 15 of 32 in the series Kelly

 Attentional Overload after Brain Injury: Kelly Part Fifteen

Kelly talks about the troubles she had with attentional overload after brain injury and the issues that it can cause with concentration.  She also touches on some other brain injury issues she encounters.

As an advertising salesperson, you’re in a profession that requires you to more outgoing, more intrusive of other’s people’s privacy than you would perhaps be if you weren’t in the sales business.  There is a problem with brain injury, a deficit, that brain injured people don’t know when to be outgoing – when not to be outgoing and it interrelates with a term often called disinhibition.  Do you see issues now in yourself where it’s hard for you to know when to turn that outgoingness on and off, or have you worked through that? 

I see what you’re saying.  I’ve pretty much worked through that I would say.  Now I do have some, some senses of disinhibition because one of my impairments that I have today is noise.  I cannot do noise.  I cannot go to, ballgames or any type of outdoor event where they have the loudspeakers.  And holidays at the mall, when they loud, they say something all the crowd yack, yack, yack, and talking, I just cannot do all of this noise.  Now what it does to me, and no one understands, my family cannot quite grasp, is that I don’t actually exhibit, uh, an autistic, an epileptic seizure such as a grand mal or a petite mal, but my brain, my head it feels to me like it’s going through the motions of an epileptic seizure.

What I think you’re talking about is that when the sensory demands, and it can be any number of things I would guess, when sensory demands upon you get over a certain minimum level, most of the way in which your brain functions starts to be changed.  Is that? 


And the more things you’re asked to be to demand of your brain, attentional overload after brain injury, the harder it is for you? 


Talk to me about attentional overload after brain injury. 

Well that’s kind of a multitasking thing.  I’m good at multitasking but not being overwhelmed all at once.  If we designate which entity that I’m going to be actually, which task I’m actually going to be doing, I can handle that if I know I’m going to be moving to another one.  But, if I’m a very multifunctional sensory overload then I just basically will have a temper, temper, temper tantrum.

Attentional overload after brain injury and concentration problems get most of the attention in mild brain injury cases. In contrast, other more overt symptoms often get the focus after severe brain injury. However, recovery from the more overt symptoms of brain injury does not mean that a survivor may not be plagued long term with the more subtle attentional overload after brain injury issues that plague many survivors of mild TBI.

Thus,what is wrote 12 years ago aboutattentional overload after brain injury problems at   has relevancy to all brain injury survivors, not just those who have ©Subtle Brain Injury. I said then:

“The primary pathology resulting from a (brain injury) is a disruption in neural connections. While these neural connections may regenerate, and in younger people, often so well that apparent full recovery can be achieved, these reconnections are less efficient. The net result of these less efficient reconnections, is that the speed at which the brain can process information is reduced.

“Multi-process equals multi-attend. In computers we use the term multi-task. In the human mind, we talk in terms of multi-attend. Perhaps the best way to appreciate attentional overload after brain injury problems, is to compare the computer you are using today to the one you might have been using a couple of years ago. While the best of the current computers are so fast that we may not notice when we ask our computers to do multiple tasks, the previous generation couldn’t do anything else while it was printing.

“In the human mind, we encounter these problems when we try to divide our mental processing capacity between two tasks. Most multi-attending is done without thinking about it. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can walk and talk at the same time. But the more difficult the mental task, the more difficult it becomes for our brains to jump back and forth between the two tasks requiring some portion of its attention. The less efficient neural reconnections in the injured brain have much greater difficulty multi-tasking.”

As a result of the complexity of the processes involved in the vestibular system (which is our system of hearing and balance) such processes requires attentional overload after brain injury, especially when it is having to transpose garbled information, after brain injury.

Kelly can’t do noise.  The reason is likely because screening out what she intends to listen to – from all of the background sounds – requires a level of over-attending that it quickly tires and exasperates her.

Next in Part Sixteen – Pushing the Limits In Relearning to Walk After TBI

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447