Executive dysfunction following traumatic brain injury: neural substrates and treatment strategies

Brenna C McDonald, Laura A Flashman, Andrew J Saykin
NeuroRehabilitation 2002, 17 (4): 333-44
Executive dysfunction is among the most common and disabling aspects of cognitive impairment following traumatic brain injury (TBI), and may include deficits in reasoning, planning, concept formation, mental flexibility, aspects of attention and awareness, and purposeful behavior. These impairments are generally attributed to frontal systems dysfunction, due either to direct insult to the frontal lobes or to disruption of their connections to other brain regions. Evaluation of executive deficits typically includes neuropsychological assessment, though adjunctive interviews can be critical in detecting subtle dysexecutive symptoms that may not be apparent on standardized testing. Rehabilitation programs emphasizing cognitive-behavioral approaches to the retraining of planning and problem-solving skills can be effective in ameliorating identified executive deficits. In addition, pharmacological approaches may be useful in addressing aspects of executive dysfunction. This review summarizes the nature of executive deficits following TBI, their neuroanatomical substrates, selected assessment and treatment strategies, and recent research findings and trends.

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