A more efficient application of the Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory in mild traumatic brain injury.


Post-concussive syndrome, or mild traumatic brain injury, often presents as a complex tangle of symptoms. Untangling these symptoms into more precise and reliable categories has been a challenge for both researchers and clinicians. In research, having reliable categories of symptoms would help to better differentiate those who are injured and those who are not. When research results are more reliable, the chance of developing effective treatments is more likely. And in a clinical setting, the challenge of educating patients and their families could be improved by using a simpler, more consistent outline of symptoms.

The Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory (NSI) is a 22-item assessment commonly used to determine mild traumatic brain injury. Symptoms such as "Decision making difficulty" or "Change in taste/smell" are rated on a scale of 0-5. Government researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health and Veterans Brain Injury Centers across the country recently found that clustering these 22 symptoms into three general categories was a more efficient and practical use of the NSI.

The symptom categories they found to be most useful were: somatic/sensory (such as hearing loss or numbness), affective (such as anxiety or depression), or cognitive (such as memory loss or slowed thinking). By structuring symptoms into these three major categories, researchers might conduct more reliable studies and clinicians could more easily educate patients and their families.

Structuring symptoms into major categories helps to organize the understanding, interpretation, and education of the complex symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury.

Caplan LJ, Ivins B, Poole JH, et al. The structure of postconcussive symptoms in 3 US military samples. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. (March 2010).