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Why does the brain have such trouble healing?

You can break your arm and have full function restored in a matter of weeks. You can cut yourself, and your skin heals over in days; even a bad cut that takes weeks to heal and leaves you with a scar is still going to heal.

The same isn't always true with the brain. Injuries can have a lasting impact. Many people with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have life-long disabilities. The brain may heal to a degree, but why doesn't it heal completely in all cases?

One reason is that neurons, the cells within your brain, do not regenerate by splitting like skin cells. The brain can only make a limited number of new neurons. Your skin heals by creating new skin cells to replace those that were lost, but your brain can't always replace all of its lost cells.

Your neurons have long extensions, named axons, that they use to pass information. These can also be damaged or killed, even when the cell itself survives. As with neurons, axons don't always regenerate when they're cut off. This makes it harder for the neuron to pass along critical messages.

Skin cells are incredibly simple compared to neurons and axons, so it's easier for them to regenerate. Brain damage is often permanent because the cells themselves cannot bounce back in the same way. Remember, there's a reason your spinal cord and your brain itself have so much protection. Your body uses bone -- your skull, for instance -- to protect its most vulnerable organs and cells.

The key thing to remember here is that brain damage may last for life. That's not to say that recovery from a brain injury is impossible, but full recovery may never happen. That's why it's so important to understand your potential rights to compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages and the cost of professional care and assistance.

Source: Frontiers, "Why Doesn’t Your Brain Heal Like Your Skin?," Nina Weishaupt, accessed March 02, 2018

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