Traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a forensic neuropsychiatric perspective

Behav Sci Law. 2013 Nov-Dec;31(6):721-38. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2079. Epub 2013 Sep 9.


Recent scientific reports and popular press describing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) collectively link this condition to a broad array of neuropsychiatric symptoms, including extremely rare and multi-determined behaviors such as murder-suicide. These reports are difficult to reconcile with several decades of research on the science of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its consequences, especially the natural history and prognosis of mild TBI. This article attempts to reconcile these sources by reviewing the state of the science on CTE, with particular attention to case definitions and neuropathological criteria for this diagnosis. The evidence for links between TBI, CTE, and catastrophic clinical events is explored, and the complexity of attributing rare frequency behavioral events to CTE is highlighted. The clinical and medicolegal implications of the best available evidence are discussed, concluding with a cautionary note against prematurely generalizing current findings on CTE to entire populations of persons with, or at risk for, concussion exposures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / complications
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / pathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Football / injuries*
  • Forensic Psychiatry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychiatry*