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Ann Neurol. 2007 Feb;61(2):92-6.

A real reason for patients with pseudobulbar affect to smile.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a dramatic disorder of emotional expression and regulation characterized by uncontrollable episodes of laughing and crying that often cause embarrassment, curtailment of social activities, and reduction in quality of life. The disorder occurs in patients with brain injury caused by many types of neurological disease, including stroke, tumors, and neurodegenerative gray and white matter disorders. Although the pathophysiology is unknown, PBA may relate to release of brainstem emotional control centers from regulation by the frontal lobes. Diagnosis of PBA can be difficult and relies on careful characterization of episodes and differentiation from depression. Although there are no US Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for PBA, several agents have been shown to be effective, including tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and a new agent containing dextromethorphan and quinidine. The growing number of treatment options, some of great benefit to patients, highlights the importance of accurate diagnosis of this disorder.

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