Cognitive rehabilitation in traumatic brain injury.
OPINION STATEMENT: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health problem with neurobehavioral sequelae contributing to the long-term disability that is often associated with the moderate to severe levels of injury. Rehabilitation of cognitive skills is central to encouraging the full participation of the individual in home, vocational, and social roles. The review of available evidence points to four major recommendations for the rehabilitation of cognition following brain injury: 1) Access to subacute rehabilitation that is holistic in nature and involves a multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary team to work in an integrated fashion to support physical, cognitive, and social skill retraining is vital to support positive outcome following TBI. The collaborative effort of these individuals allows for continual reinforcement and evaluation of treatment goals and will often involve the family and/or important others in the individual's life to prepare for community re-entry. 2) Trials of medication, especially methylphenidate, to assist individuals with significant attention and memory impairment appear well supported by the available evidence. Though some data suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors may be of use for individuals with memory impairments, there is less support for this practice and there are indications that it may worsen the behavioral sequelae of the injury. 3) Randomized controlled trials demonstrate the utility of specific rehabilitation approaches to attention retraining and retraining of executive functioning skills. Future research is needed on rehabilitation techniques in other domains of cognition. 4) Training in the use of supportive devices (either a memory book or more technologically enhanced compensatory devices) to support the individual's daily activities remains central to the independent function of the individual in the community. Though emerging treatments (eg, virtual reality environments) show relative degrees of promise for inclusion in the rehabilitation of the individual with TBI, these need further evaluation in systematic trials.
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