Pharmacological treatment of attention in traumatic brain injury

The area of the brain associated with attention is the frontal lobe, which means that many survivors of traumatic brain injury will experience attention deficits. Attention is important for wide range of self-management-for instance focus, processing speed, or multi-tasking. Attention deficits can therefore slow down rehabilitation efforts and recovery because of the patient's inability to stay on task.

Rehabilitation specifically for attention deficits has traditionally been cognitive-based and time-consuming. A recent study reviewed the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment for attention disorders in traumatic brain injury patients. They found that only one pharmacological treatment-methylphenidate-was effective, and only for improving processing speed.

There was little evidence that other pharmacological treatments were clinically effective for attention deficits, which suggests that: 1) patients with attention problems may still require time-consuming cognitive rehabilitation, 2) pharmacological treatments should only be considered in patients that do not respond to cognitive treatment, and 3) further clinical studies may be warranted.

Sivan M, Nuemann V, Kent R, et al. Pharmacotherapy for treatment of attention deficits after non-progressive acquired brain injury. A systematic review. Clinical Rehabilitation. (March 2010).

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