Assessment and treatment of mental fatigue after a traumatic brain injury

Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2017 Oct;27(7):1047-1055. doi: 10.1080/09602011.2017.1292921. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


Mental fatigue is a frequently occurring symptom after mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Such mental fatigue may become a long-lasting problem, irrespective of severity and even after recovery from other neurological or psychiatric symptoms. Two characteristics of this mental fatigue are that patients easily become exhausted and there is generally a long recovery time. There is a need to increase knowledge and awareness of mental fatigue as it interferes considerably with work, studies, and social activities. Assessment is difficult and few treatment studies have been carried out. For the purposes of assessment, the development of the Mental Fatigue Scale is described here, and we also summarise the few treatment studies found for fatigue after TBI. Symptom alleviation is reported through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), light therapy and for the psychostimulant methylphenidate and the dopamine stabiliser (-)-OSU6162. However, more knowledge of the origin of mental fatigue and its underlying mechanisms is needed for development of more efficient therapeutic methods. Prospective randomised trials focusing on long-term outcomes are warranted and should include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments.

Keywords: Mental fatigue; TBI; assessment; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / complications*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mental Fatigue* / diagnosis
  • Mental Fatigue* / etiology
  • Mental Fatigue* / therapy
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Phototherapy / methods*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dopamine Agents