HOUSTON -- Images of a smiling Rep. Gabrielle Giffords were posted yesterday on her Facebook page, two photos that show her with shorter, darker hair but few signs that she suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

The photos were taken May 17 outside the Houston rehabilitation facility where Giffords has been undergoing treatment since she was wounded five months ago at a meet-and-greet event with constituents. Six people died and a dozen others were wounded in the Jan. 8 attack in Tucson, Ariz.

Prior to the release of the photos, the only recent sign of Giffords had come in late April, when grainy television footage showed her slowly ascending a flight of steps to a NASA plane that took her to Florida to watch her astronaut husband rocket into space.

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said staff members released the photos yesterday to help satisfy "intense interest in the congresswoman's appearance." Her staff hopes the images will help curb unwanted photography when she begins visiting an outpatient clinic later this month or in early July.

Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, has indicated that while the congresswoman is able to speak and walk, she remains a shadow of her former self.

"She is borrowing upon other ways of communicating. Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing," Carusone said.

The description matches what experts expect from someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. -- AP

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