Addressing neuropsychiatric disturbances during rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury: current and future methods.


Cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and sensorimotor disturbances are the principal clinical manifestations of traumatic brain injury (TBI) throughout the early postinjury period. These post-traumatic neuropsychiatric disturbances present substantial challenges to patients, their families, and clinicians providing their rehabilitative care, the optimal approaches to which remain incompletely developed. In this article, a neuropsychiatrically informed, neurobiologically anchored approach to understanding and meeting challenges is described. The foundation for that approach is laid, with a review of clinical case definitions of TBI and clarification of their intended referents. The differential diagnosis of event-related neuropsychiatric disturbances is considered next, after which the clinical and neurobiological heterogeneity within the diagnostic category of TBI are discussed. The clinical manifestations of biomechanical force-induced brain dysfunction are described as a state of post-traumatic encephalopathy (PTE) comprising several phenomenologically distinct stages. PTE is then used as a framework for understanding and clinically evaluating the neuropsychiatric sequelae of TBI encountered commonly during the early post-injury rehabilitation period, and for considering the types and timings of neurorehabilitative interventions. Finally, directions for future research that may address productively the challenges to TBI rehabilitation presented by neuropsychiatric disturbances are considered.