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Study Says Brain Injury Victims Struggle with Gist Reasoning

Doctors and hospitals do a lot of hard tests to diagnose a traumatic brain injury and design a treatment. Now a new cognitive assessment will help gauge accident victims’ ability to get the gist of new ideas – an aspect of brain injury with devastating effects.

Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas have been studying traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims’ ability to “get the gist or extract the essence of a message.” The cognitive assessment measures participants’ ability to glean information not expressly stated from multiple complex texts. When compared to healthy test participants, 70 percent of brain injury victims scored lower on gist reasoning.

Gist reasoning is a big challenge for TBI survivors. Difficulties in this area can translate into problems holding down a job or maintaining a household. Worse, many traditional tests do not recognize those problems, leading doctors to believe there is nothing wrong, biologically. According to Asha Vas, Ph.D., the lead study author,

“Gist reasoning characterizes a meaningful, complex cognitive capacity. Assessing how well one understands and expresses big ideas from information they are exposed, commonly known as an ability to ‘get the gist’, is window into real life functionality. I do not know of any other paper and pencil test that can tell us both . . . Although performance on traditional cognitive tests is informative, widely-used measures do not paint the full picture. Adults with TBI often fare average or above on these structured measures. All too often, adults with brain injury have been told that they ought to be fine; in reality, they are not doing and thinking like they used to prior to the injury and struggle managing everyday life responsibilities years after the injury. Gist reasoning could be a sensitive tool to connect some of those dots as to why they are having trouble with real-life functionality despite falling into the range of ‘normal’ on other cognitive tests.”

The authors of the study believe the struggles brain injury victims have with gist reasoning could reflect an inability to use flexible or innovative thinking. It can affect survivors’ ability to solve problems or understand another person’s point of view.

Subtle disabilities like a lack of gist reasoning can be some of the hardest to prove to insurance providers or juries. It requires a skilled legal team with experience in brain injury to lay out the impact of such challenges on the victims of traumatic brain injury.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert he and his team at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan work with the survivors of brain injury accidents every day. They help survivors and their families get the money they need to pay for treatments, accommodations, and assistance as they adjust to their lives post-accident. If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury as the result of an auto accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.