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Reducing Anger and Aggression in Recovering Brain Injury Patients

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Aggression and anger are common emotional and behavioral symptoms experienced by traumatic brain injury patients, making the rehabilitation process extremely difficult as relationships with rehabilitators, family and friends are strained—making readjustment to their normal lives even harder.

Now, there may be hope for patients experiencing these symptoms, however. Researchers at Indiana University have recently found that the medication Amantadine, an antiviral medication that has been around since the 1960s, could help reduce feelings of anger and aggression in traumatic brain injury patients. The research was led by Dr. Flora Hammond of Indiana University and its conclusions are based on results from multiple studies of patients who had a chronic traumatic brain injury combined with feelings of aggression or anger.

According to Dr. Dawn Neumann, the issue editor of the journal where the study was published, emotional side effects that brain injury patients experience have been vastly understudied and are very hard to treat. She went on to explain how that needs to change as these emotional side effects can grossly inhibit successful brain injury recovery. “…they [emotional side effects] 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,” Neumann said.

The potential benefits of Amantadine for brain injury patients were discovered when Parkinson’s disease patients, who were taking the drug to prevent viral infections like the flu, began to show signs of cognitive improvement. Amantadine is no longer used in a widespread manner as an antiviral medication, but its effects on patients with brain injuries who experience feelings of aggression and anger are beginning to become more closely examined and researched.

Traumatic brain injuries in the United States are very common. Estimates indicate somebody in the United States suffers a traumatic brain injury every 15 minutes. Traumatic brain injuries can happen to people of all ages, demographics, and backgrounds. While one major goal of researchers and scientists is to reduce the overall number of brain injuries that happen every year, studies on how to improve the recovery process for brain injury patients are becoming increasingly important as well. Referring to patients who experience reduced aggression and anger from taking Amantadine and similar drugs, Dr. Hammond said, “It helps you reclaim your identity a bit. And to get that back helps you get your quality of life back too.”

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