Aggression in TBI not associated with substance abuse or a history of behavioral problems

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Aggressive behavior after traumatic brain injury, whether it comes in the form of physical or verbal expressions, can interfere with family life, rehabilitation, and recovery. Prevention of aggressive behavior after traumatic brain injury is important, and yet how exactly aggressive behavior was related to injury had not previously been explored.

A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently reported the prevalence and specific risk indicators of aggression after traumatic brain injury. The following summarizes their results:

  1. Verbal aggression was quite prevalent after traumatic brain injury, but physical aggression was nearly absent.
  2. Aggression was associated with:
    1. Impaired psychosocial functioning
    2. New-onset major depression
    3. Increased dependence in daily living activities
    4. Major depression that occurred before injury was not a predictor of aggression.
    5. Aggression was not associated with pre-injury behavior problems, substance abuse, legal charges, or neuropsychological tests.

These associations mean that aggression after traumatic brain injury could potentially be addressed by alternative methods, such as providing stronger social connections, increased independence in daily living, or direct treatments of depression. Additionally, their research dissociated the social or pre-injury factors commonly thought to magnify aggressive behavior.

Rao V, Rosenberg P, Bertrand M, et al. Aggression after traumatic brain injury: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. (Fall 2009).