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The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It controls our movements, sensations, thoughts, words and emotions. The brain weighs about 1.3 kilograms (3 pounds) and has several thousand miles of interconnected nerve cells, all fed by a system of tiny blood vessels. These blood vessels bring oxygen and energy to the brain in the form of nutrients. Even though the brain counts for only 2% of body weight, it consumes 20% of our oxygen and energy supply.

Over the past century there have been many advances in neuroscience and yet there is still so much about the human brain we have yet to learn. It is through continued research that more discoveries will be made, which will lead to a deeper understanding of how the brain works and the cascading impact of the consequences when it is injured.

Throughout the month of June, participating community brain injury associations, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and organizations across Canada focus on bringing awareness to brain injury.
Over the past few years there has been some confusion as various international organizations celebrate Brain Awareness Week in March. This global celebration was launched by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives in the United States. The goal was, and is, to increase public awareness about brain science advances and to campaign for science funding.

During Brain Awareness Week, brain research is highlighted as it pertains to the treatment and prevention of disorders of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, schizophrenia and depression. Organizations such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Brain Tumour Foundation and Alzheimer Society participate in this initiative. Brain Awareness Week is listed on the Government of Canada’s calendar of health promotion days.

So where does brain injury fit into Brain Awareness Week and how is it different than Brain Injury Awareness Month? During the month of June, the exclusive focus is on brain injury, where Brain Awareness Week focuses on all neurological conditions. Is there a place for brain injury in Brain Awareness Week? The answer is a resounding yes. The more awareness that can be brought to brain injury, the better.

There are two ways in which we can participate. First, we can focus on brain health, in the form of prevention. We know that the best-case scenario is that the brain does not get injured at all. The second way we can help is to bring awareness to the incredible research that has been conducted specific to brain injury, as well as ongoing research. Research in the field of brain injury can range from the functions of the brain, efficacy of programs, and to community-based research.

OBIA has been conducting research for more than 25 years and in 2012 produced the OBIA Impact Report. This report is a statistical snapshot of acquired brain injury and its effects on survivors and caregivers. Data for this research study was collected through the Ontario Brain Injury Research Questionnaire. Through the utilization of this data, a clear picture of the long-term outcomes for people who are living with the effects of acquired brain injury emerges.

It also takes into account the unique perspective of those who are caregivers. OBIA’s research study is also aimed at collecting data on the time of diagnosis, an injured person’s access to services, and any gaps and/or barriers within the system. Ultimately, our goal is to provide relevant research data to better inform health care policy makers, Local Health Integrated Networks (LHINs), insurers and researchers who are examining ways in which people living with a brain injury can be better served. The OBIA Impact Report is available for download here.

Whether it is Brain Awareness Week (March) or Brain Injury Awareness Month (June), we all can be ambassadors to demonstrate the importance of prevention, awareness and research, inevitably contributing to enhancing the lives of those living with brain injury.

Reprinted from OBIA Review, March 2018 Volume 25, Issue 1



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