Getting Shot in the Head

Before you start imagining video game head shots or gray matter splattered all over, this is a look at gunshots to the head from a scientific perspective. I was always curious whether the brain can register the conscious sensation of pain before a bullet does its damage. Two online articles have discussed this quite extensively, and both concluded that the brain would not be able to react to a direct hit from a gun.

In my research, I also found out a few pretty surprising things about whether shots to the head are always fatal and about brain damage. There may be some objections to these conclusions, but here are my findings:

  1. When shot in the head, in this day and age, one actually has a fifty percent chance of surviving. This shows that not everyone dies from head shots.
  2. Most people think that a bullet to the brain would damage it irreparably, but in reality a bullet wound may not necessarily damage the brain in areas essential for consciousness.
  3. If the individual does die from gunshot wounds to the head, it is not necessarily from the trauma of brain damage. It may also be other factors, such as blood loss. This is frequently the case, because the internal carotid artery clears a quarter a liter of blood per minute supplied directly to the brain. In high stress situations, the blood supply can double and with a hole in the head, the blood supply cleans out rather quickly.
  4. The level of brain damage is determined to many factors, such as the velocity, shape, size and material of the bullet. Furthermore, when the bullet hits the skull, fragments of bone also fly into the brain, resulting in more projectiles hitting the soft tissue. The structure of the skull is also a factor, as the pressure wave from the bullet and the fragments are contained in a small space, reverberating from the bone back into the brain echoing many times over.

So, gunshots to the head are not always fatal, and do not always result in permanent brain damage. While some may die, others may be able to react, think clearly and be able to save themselves in times of mortal danger.

One Comment

  1. Janelle McGann says:

    Thanks a lot! I am doing a story where there is a scene with a head shot, but the character survives. You cleared a lot of things up for me! Your gracious information is invaluable.

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