Glossary of Medical Terms

Aneurysm – Swelling in the wall of an artery which may rupture leading to bleeding.

Aphasia – A communication disorder where the person loses the ability to use or understand language.

Axon – An extension from the cell that carries nerve impulses.

Brain Stem – part of the brain responsible for breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

Cerebellum – part of the brain which is responsible for basic movement, balance and posture.

Cognitive skills – mental abilities such as remembering, attention, understanding, problems solving, thinking and planning.

Coma – state of unconsciousness measured by the Glasgow Coma Scale.

Concussion – brief unconsciousness after a blow to the head.

Corpus Callosum – the part of the brain that separates the left and the right side of the brain. Damage to this area can cause problems with the two sides of the brain working together.

Cortex – the surface of the brain which does assist with some executive functions.

Diffuse Axonal Injury – widespread tearing of the nerve fibres across the brain.

Embolism – Sudden block of an artery by a clot.

Executive functions – planning, organising, problem solving, prioritising, self-monitoring, controlling behaviour and judgement.

Focal Lesion – damage usually restricted to one particular area of the brain.

Frontal lobe – The area primarily concerned with planning, organising, attention and the control and regulation of behaviour and emotion. This usually affects personality.

Glasgow Coma Scale – A score given to patients with a brain injury measuring the degree of consciousness. A score of 8 or less indicates that a person is in a coma. The minimum score is 3 and the maximum is 15. Someone with 15 would generally be able to speak, obey instructions and respond.

Hippocampus - the portion of the cerebral hemispheres in the basal medial part of the temporal lobe. This part of the brain is important for learning and memory, for converting short term memory to more permanent memory.

Labile – an inability to control emotions.

Neurologist – a medical expert who specialises in the brain.

Neuron - the basic building block of the brain; these cells receive input from other nerve cells and distribute information to other neurons; the information integration underlies the simplest and most complex of our thoughts and behaviour.

Neuropsychologist – an expert who specialising in studying brain behaviour and the impact on relationships.

Neurosurgeon – an expert who specialises in operating on those with brain injury.

Occipital Lobe – the part of the brain which affects vision.

Parietal Lobe – the part of the brain which affects the awareness of space.

Post Traumatic Amnesia – An inability to remember continuous events after the injury even when the patient appears to be awake.

Persistent Vegetative State – No meaningful awareness of self or surroundings with no adaptive response to stimuli and no ability to communicate.

Rehabilitation – Treatment focusing on working towards optimal physical, mental and social potential.

Retrograde Amnesia – An inability to remember things that happened before the injury.

Stroke – A disruption of the blood supply to the part of the brain from a blocked or burst blood vessel.

Subarachnoid Haemorrhage – Often caused by a burst cerebral aneurysm leading to a layer of blood under the arachnoid.

Temporal Lobe – the part of the brain usually affecting speech and language mainly communication.

Traumatic Brain Injury – damage to the brain.