01 February 2011
Med Sci Monit 2011; 17(2): CS18-28
Background: It is well known that traumatic brain injury often changes the way the patient perceives reality, which often means a distortion of the perception of self and the world. The purpose of this article is to understand the processes of identity change after traumatic brain injury.
Case Report: We describe progressive deterioration in personal identity in a former physician who had sustained a serious head injury (1998), resulting in focal injuries to the right frontal and temporal areas. He regained consciousness after 63 days in coma and 98 days of post-traumatic amnesia, but has since displayed a persistent loss of autobiographical memory, self-image, and emotional bonds to family and significant others. Qualitative ‘life-story’ interviewing was undertaken to explore the mental state of a patient whose subjective, “first person” identity has been disengaged, despite the retention of significant amounts of objective, “third person” information about himself and his personal history (though this was also lost at a later stage in the patient’s deterioration).
Identity change in our patient was characterized by a dynamic and convoluted process of contraction, expansion and tentative balance. Our patient tends to cling to the self of others, borrowing their identities at least for the period he is able to remember. Identity is closely connected with the processes of memory.
Conclusions: The results will be examined in relation to the microgenetic theory of brain function. The brain mechanisms that may account for these impairments are discussed. Findings from this study have important implications for the delivery of person-focused rehabilitation.
Keywords: Memory - physiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Identity Crisis, Brain Injuries - rehabilitation, Neuropsychological Tests, Syndrome
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