Researchers identify treatment option for brain injury patients suffering from aggression

September 11, 2017

A drug originally developed in the 1960s as an antiviral medication is showing promise as a treatment option for people who suffer from increased feelings of aggression following traumatic brain injury, Indiana University School of Medicine researchers have reported.

Aggression and anger are among the most common emotional and behavioral symptoms experienced by traumatic —often resulting in poorer rehabilitation outcomes and negatively affecting ' relationships with family and friends and their ability to live at home and maintain steady employment.

The team of researchers, led by Flora Hammond, MD, chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Covalt Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, found that in multiple studies of patients with chronic traumatic brain injury and moderate-severe aggression, taking 100 miligrams of the drug Amantadine twice daily appeared to be beneficial in decreasing aggression, from the perspective of the patients.

Their findings were published in the newest issue of the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, for which IU School of Medicine associate professor Dawn M. Neumann, PhD, served as topical issue editor focusing on treatment for emotional issues after traumatic brain injury.

"Of the vast array of consequences of traumatic brain injury, emotional deficits are among the most prevalent, persistent, and challenging to treat," Dr. Neumann wrote in her issue preface. "However, they remain grossly understudied compared to other impairments, especially with respect to interventions. As emotional functioning is integral to well-being and quality of life, it is our obligation as rehabilitation researchers and clinicians to endeavor to narrow this gap."

Dr. Hammond said scientists initially realized the potential for Amantadine to help patients with brain injuries because people with Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the central nervous system, showed cognitive improvements while taking the drug to prevent viruses such as the flu. Amantadine is no longer widely used as an , but it is still used to help people with Parkinson's disease, and—now—those who experience aggression due to traumatic brain injury, she said.

One of Dr. Hammond's patients is also one of her colleagues, Elena Gillespie, PhD, an adjunct assistant research professor at IU School of Medicine who suffered from a after a bicycle accident.

Dr. Gillespie said at first, she didn't recognize her own symptoms. She was feeling irritable and exhausted all of the time and another colleague suggested she might have a brain injury. Dr. Gillespie made an appointment to see Dr. Hammond as a patient, which is how she discovered she had a concussion and mild brain injury. After trying other drugs, Dr. Gillespie was prescribed Amantadine.

"The effects were immediate and just amazing," Dr. Gillespie said. "It calms down part of your brain and gives you a moment to pause and reflect."

Dr. Gillespie, who works with brain injury patients as part of her role at IU, said she has seen it work in other patients as well.

"It helps you reclaim your identity a bit," she said. "And to get that back helps you get your quality of life back too."

Dr. Hammond said traumatic brain injuries are very common, as they can happen suddenly to people of all ages and demographics. It's estimated that someone in the United States suffers from a once every 15 minutes, she said.

This study is important, she said, because it expands treatment options for patients with aggression, which can have devastating effects on people's lives and ability to function.

Explore further: PTSD may be physical and not only psychological

More information: Flora M. Hammond et al, Potential Impact of Amantadine on Aggression in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury, Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (2017). DOI: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000342

Related Stories

PTSD may be physical and not only psychological

July 11, 2017
The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a study released ...

Brain injury in kids might lead to alcohol abuse

August 14, 2017
Researchers at Ohio State University have surveyed previous studies to investigate the relationship between traumatic brain injuries and alcohol abuse. They found evidence that traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents ...

New test may quickly identify mild traumatic brain injury with underlying brain damage

February 17, 2017
A new test using peripheral vision reaction time could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a concussion, according to Peter J. Bergold, PhD, professor ...

Brain healing after injury given a natural boost

June 19, 2017
We may be able to kick-start healing after a traumatic brain injury by boosting levels of a protein made naturally within the brain, according to new research conducted at the University of Adelaide.

Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage

July 16, 2014
Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage and thinking and memory problems, according to a study published in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

New study shows GFAP and UCH-L1 are not useful biomarkers for diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury

February 7, 2017
In patients who suffered acute orthopedic injuries, two proposed biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) were not able to distinguish between patients who did or did not have mTBI. Relying on elevated levels of ...

Recommended for you

Faulty cell signaling derails cerebral cortex development, could it lead to autism?

September 20, 2017
As the embryonic brain develops, an incredibly complex cascade of cellular events occur, starting with progenitors - the originating cells that generate neurons and spur proper cortex development. If this cascade malfunctions ...

Research redefines proteins' role in the development of spinal sensory cells

September 19, 2017
A recent study led by Samantha Butler at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA has overturned a common belief about how a certain class of proteins in the spinal cord regulate ...

The brain at work: Spotting half-hidden objects

September 19, 2017
How does a driver's brain realize that a stop sign is behind a bush when only a red edge is showing? Or how can a monkey suspect that the yellow sliver in the leaves is a round piece of fruit?

Team discovers how to train damaging inflammatory cells to promote repair after stroke

September 19, 2017
White blood cells called neutrophils are like soldiers in your body that form in the bone marrow and at the first sign of microbial attack, head for the site of injury just as fast as they can to neutralize invading bacteria ...

Epileptic seizures show long-distance effects

September 19, 2017
The area in which an epileptic seizure starts in the brain, may be small but it reaches other parts of the brain at distances of over ten centimeters. That distant activity, in turn, influences the epileptic core, according ...

Study uncovers markers for severe form of multiple sclerosis

September 18, 2017
Scientists have uncovered two closely related cytokines—molecules involved in cell communication and movement—that may explain why some people develop progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), the most severe form of the disease. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.