Untangling PTSD and TBI: Challenges and Strategies in Clinical Care and Research

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018 Nov 8;18(12):106. doi: 10.1007/s11910-018-0908-5.


Purpose of review: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from similar injuries and can result in similar symptoms, such as problems with sleep, concentration, memory, and mood. Although PTSD and persistent sequelae due to a TBI (PST) have generally been viewed as pragmatically confounded but conceptually separable entities, we examine emerging evidence emphasizing the breadth of overlap in both clinical presentation and underlying pathophysiology between PST and PTSD.

Recent findings: New evidence underscores the poor specificity of symptoms to etiology and emphasizes the potential, after both physical brain injury and traumatic stress, for changes in each of the three interacting systems that coordinate the body's response to the experience or expectation of major injury-the immune, endocrine, and neuromodulatory neurotransmitter systems. A view of PTSD and PST sharing common pathophysiologic elements related to the CNS response to acute injury or threat carries important implications for research and clinical care.

Keywords: Catecholamines; Neuroinflammation; Pituitary; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Trauma; Traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*