Researchers identify treatment option for brain injury patients suffering from aggression

September 11, 2017, Indiana University

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

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

Epilepsy linked to brain volume and thickness differences

January 22, 2018
Epilepsy is associated with thickness and volume differences in the grey matter of several brain regions, according to new research led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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.