What is ‘Executive Dysfunction’ Following a Brain Injury?

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It’s easy to take for granted our abilities to carry out everyday tasks such as reading a book, following a recipe, or planning a trip. However, for many people with brain injuries, long-term and permanent damage to our executive functions can suddenly make the simplest activities much more challenging.

Executive Dysfunction is a broad term to describe difficulties in cognition, behaviour, and emotion after a brain injury and damage to the frontal lobe areas of our brain.

Although the effects of Executive Dysfunction can be distressing and frustrating for both the injured person and their family and friends, with long-term support, rehabilitation, and coping strategies, many people with Executive Dysfunction are able to live normal, independent lives.


What are executive functions?

Executive functions are the skills controlled by the frontal lobe area of your brain, including:

  • Planning
  • Organisation
  • Motivation
  • Multi-tasking
  • Self-awareness
  • Problem-solving
  • Performance monitoring (assessing how well you are doing a task)
  • Saying or doing the right things
  • Inhibiting yourself from saying or doing the wrong things
  • Concentrating and retaining information
  • Emotional regulation
  • Cognitive flexibility (ability to switch tasks, adjust thinking and behaviour, and adapt to changes in our environment)


What are the effects of Executive Dysfunction?

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Executive Dysfunction can have wide-ranging effect on a person’s ability to go about their day-to-day life. The effects of Executive Dysfunction might include:

  • Problems with motivation, such as the ability to ‘get going’
  • Inability to think ahead or comprehend the steps needed to carry out a specific task
  • Difficulty concentrating or processing and remembering information, such as reading a page in a book over and over without taking in any of the words
  • Difficulty assessing the impact of certain actions, changing course of action, or switching tasks
  • Acting impulsively, such as making big purchases without thinking about the consequences
  • Difficulty regulating emotions, such as experiencing rapid mood swings or bouts of sudden laughter or crying
  • Difficulty solving problems, judging the best course of action, or foreseeing consequences
  • A reduction in social skills, including having difficulty engaging or following conversation and being unable to stop yourself saying or doing inappropriate things
  • Forgetting past or current events and experiencing disorientation

Executive Dysfunction can make it difficult for a person to work, carry out routine errands, or maintain relationships. The family, friends, or colleagues of someone experiencing Executive Dysfunction may also find spending time with them challenging due to behaviour which can easily be mistaken as anti-social, selfish, lazy, or aggressive.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s not the injured person’s fault and their actions are not intentional. People who experience Executive Dysfunction often find it hard to explain the problems they are having, and some don’t realise their behaviour has changed at all.


How is Executive Dysfunction diagnosed? 

If you or someone you know has had a brain injury potentially resulting in Executive Dysfunction, it is vital to be assessed by a specialist such as a neurologist or neuropsychologist.

Executive Dysfunction is difficult to pinpoint. However, the medical professional assessing you will run some screening tests to measure cognitive function, such as puzzles, word games, or roleplay scenarios. The medical professional will also consider a number of factors, including:

  • What problems is the individual exhibiting symptoms and their family experiencing since their brain injury?
  • How is the individual functioning in day-to-day life?
  • Does the individual have any goals in their personal life, at work, or at school?
  • How does the individual’s abilities compare with someone of the same background, age, and gender?


Do you need advice about Executive Dysfunction following a brain injury?

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If you or a loved one is experiencing Executive Dysfunction as a result of a brain injury, you may be able to claim compensation if the injury was caused or made worse by someone else’s negligence or deliberate action.

This compensation could be considerable depending on the particular circumstances of your case, and may cover your needs to restore your quality of life, including rehabilitation, care, home help, compensation for loss of earnings and loss of earning potential, costs of seeking medical treatment and attending appointments.

It is therefore essential you visit a specialist brain injury solicitor for legal advice on instigating a claim to give you the best opportunity of securing fair Executive Dysfunction compensation.