Posted on April 17, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 18 of 32 in the series Quinn

Attentional Resources After TBI: Quinn Part Eighteen

Divided attention is one of the most serious problems in people with brain injury because of their attentional resources after TBI.  Yet Quinn, as most of our survivors had very little divided attention problems in the interview.  His wife walked through once or twice. Technical problems with the video equipment required we take frequent breaks, yet he had no difficulty picking up the conversation each time we started again.

Is there a level of distraction that starts to make it hard for you because of your attentional resources after TBI? 

Sometimes, you know, like when you were talking to her I got thinking; I was listening to you guys talk but then I got thinking about other issues, so I missed half of what you were talking about.  That’ll happen when I’m having a conversation with you, you’ll ask a question and, it says Dynex on the stand, and that’s distracting me. I’m wondering what, never heard of Dynex, and then I forget what your question was.

With your lack of attentional resources after TBI, as soon as you start to look for distractions you find them? 


In general in this conversation you haven’t been distracted and your attentional resources after TBI have not been a factor?

For the most part, yeah.

The air conditioning sound doesn’t bother you? 


You’re used to that?


Conversation, as soon as you add one more person, make it a three-way conversation, and you have to listen more, it becomes more of a difficult because of your attentional resources after TBI? 

Yeah.  It, to me it’s like trying to multitask, doing, it, let’s do two things at once, if there are more than one person to communicate with.  I mean in a group of people yeah, there’s conversations going on, separate conversations going on, it’s like do I pay attention to that one, do I pay attention to that, you know, and it does, it is strange.

Is it easier for you to focus if you’re doing the majority of the talking, like you are today? 

I guess.

Talking is a multisensory, multimuscular activity.   You have to think, to decide what you’re going to say, you have to listen and you have to speak.  The speaking part involves your activating more of your nervous system than to listening to us. While it is more attentionally demanding in a sense, it also has a tendency to bring your attention into a specific focus because of your attentional resources after TBI.  Do you see any of that? 

No.  Like that, what you just said to me just kind of went pheww..(over my head).

The longer my questions the harder it is for you to follow them? 

Yeah, because  I, so now you asked. You just asked three questions in your conversation with me.  I was focused.  Now I’m totally focused on the first question, and I’m like oh shit.   He’s saying, asking another question; now I forgot the first question.  Now I’m trying to think, well what was the first question, well crap now he just added a third.  So that’s why at the end I just said look it, you know, there’s, you just said way too much.

If you were a computer, you could only take 5 K of information at a time, and if you got past that you would exceed your RAM. 


Do you have any feel for what that quantity would of information is?

No clue.

But somewhere in the long question versus the short question I start to exceed it?


More than a sentence at a time. 

I think, yeah, a couple of sentences I’m like okay, slow down.

How much would it help for me to actually talk slower, or is it really the number of words? 

I’d say the number of words is worse.  The speed, I think you could speed up, but slowing down would be like okay, come on, get to the point.  I’d be like an attorney.

You’re from Boston, you talk fast?

Yeah, that too.

For further information on how controlling the talking can make concentration easier for brain injury survivors with their limited attentional resources after TBI, see our story of Angela and logorrhea, at

Next in Part Nineteen – “Who Am I Again” Taxed Attentional Abilities

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