Traumatic brain injuries happen every year to children in New Mexico and across the United States. Some children seem to bounce back quickly after such an injury while others take years to recover. A recent study conducted by UCLA and USC researchers suggests that the fatty sheaths surrounding the brain’s nerve fibers, rather than the severity of an injury, may explain why this happens.

A brain’s nerve fibers are protected by what is called a myelin sheath. The researchers wanted to know how brain damage affects the myelin. Their study looked at imaging scans combined with recordings of brain electrical activity and tested 32 children aged 8 to 19 on mental tasks. The tasks tested processing speed, linguistic learning, short-term memory skills and cognitive flexibility.

The research team discovered dramatic differences in the children’s myelin. The patients with the most myelin damage performed 14 percent more poorly on the mental tasks. The children whose myelin was nearly intact performed nearly as well on the mental tasks as the group of children who had not suffered a brain injury. According to researchers, the study suggests that looking at a patient’s brain structure after an injury could help predict the prognosis for that patient.

Brain injuries can leave some children and adults with a permanent disability. If the brain injury was caused or made worse by medical malpractice, injured victims may be entitled to compensation. Injured victims may be able to recover costs for pain and suffering, medical bills and the expenses that could be needed for long-term care. An attorney experienced in the field of medical malpractice may be able to assist injured victims by filing a lawsuit, interviewing witnesses, consulting experts and presenting the case at a jury trial.