Cognitive outcome in traumatic brain injury survivors

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Purpose of review

This review discusses recent studies investigating the cognitive and psychiatric outcome of posttraumatic brain injury. In addition, it aims to highlight key areas for future research.

Recent findings

Detailed cognitive assessments have revealed particular deficits in processing speed in the visual domain and the detrimental impact of interference on attentional performance. A pilot functional imaging study revealed neural changes in survivors performing a response inhibition task, even when matched to controls on behavioural indices. Recent psychiatric studies highlight the incidence of these disorders in the survivors and attempt to characterize distinct psychiatric profiles. Adult and child survivors appear to show differential difficulties. Successful rehabilitation strategies addressing these psychiatric and cognitive deficits include holistic intensive neuropsychological interventions and the introduction of electronic devices. Systematic randomized trials are needed to provide an adequate evidence base for clinical practice. The potential for cognitive enhancement using psychopharmacological agents has yet to be exploited. These treatments may lead to improved quality of life for traumatic brain injury survivors and their families.


Survivors of head injury show a diverse pattern of cognitive and psychiatric profiles. Recent research highlights the nature of some of these deficits and possible ways to enhance functioning. However, the area is well poised for rapid progress in the understanding of cognitive and emotional dysfunction following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its rehabilitation through neuropsychological and psychopharmacological means.

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