Atomoxetine for attention deficits following traumatic brain injury: results from a randomized controlled trial

Brain Inj. 2014;28(12):1514-22. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2014.919530. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


Objective: To determine if atomoxetine would improve attention impairment following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Setting: Outpatients from a free-standing, private, not-for-profit rehabilitation hospital.

Population: Fifty-five adult participants with a history of a single moderate-to-severe TBI, who were at least 1 year from injury and with self-reported complaints of attention difficulties.

Intervention: Atomoxetine, a selective norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor with a primary indication for attention dosed at 40 mg twice a day for 2 weeks, compared to placebo.

Design: Randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial, with placebo run-in.

Measures: Cognitive Drug Research (CDR), Computerized Cognitive Assessment System, Stroop Color and Word Test, Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1), Neurobehavioural Functioning Inventory (NFI).

Results: Atomoxetine was well-tolerated by the subject sample. The use of atomoxetine by individuals with reported attention difficulty following TBI did not significantly improve scores on measures of attention, the CDR Power of Attention domain or the Stroop Interference score. In addition, no significant relationship was found between atomoxetine use and self-reported symptoms of attention or depression.

Conclusion: Atomoxetine did not significantly improve performance on measures of attention among individuals post-TBI with difficulties with attention. This study follows a trend of other pharmacological studies not demonstrating significant results among those with a history of TBI. Various possibilities are discussed, including the need for a more sophisticated system of classification of TBI.

Keywords: Attention; atomoxetine; cognitive drug research; controlled trial; norepinephrine; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Executive Function / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Propylamines / therapeutic use*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Propylamines
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride