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Pseudobulbar affect: prevalence and management

Authors Ahmed A, Simmons Z

Received 2 September 2013

Accepted for publication 12 October 2013

Published 29 November 2013 Volume 2013:9 Pages 483—489

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S53906

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Aiesha Ahmed, Zachary Simmons

Department of Neurology, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA, USA

Abstract: Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) may occur in association with a variety of neurological diseases, and so may be encountered in the setting of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, extrapyramidal and cerebellar disorders, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and brain tumors. The psychological consequences and the impact on social interactions may be substantial. Although it is most commonly misidentified as a mood disorder, particularly depression or a bipolar disorder, there are characteristic features that can be recognized clinically or assessed by validated scales, resulting in accurate identification of PBA, and thus permitting proper management and treatment. Mechanistically, PBA is a disinhibition syndrome in which pathways involving serotonin and glutamate are disrupted. This knowledge has permitted effective treatment for many years with antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. A recent therapeutic breakthrough occurred with the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a dextromethorphan/quinidine combination as being safe and effective for treatment of PBA. Side effect profiles and contraindications differ for the various treatment options, and the clinician must be familiar with these when choosing the best therapy for an individual, particularly elderly patients and those with multiple comorbidities and concomitant medications.

Keywords: pseudobulbar affect, emotional lability, depression, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis

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