Pseudobulbar affect in multiple sclerosis: Toward the development of innovative therapeutic strategies

  • Ariel Miller
    Tel.: +972 4 8250 851; fax: +972 4 8250 909.
    Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Department of Neurology, Carmel Medical Center, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute, Technion, Haifa, Israel
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      Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a condition involving involuntary and uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, occurs frequently in patients with a variety of neurological disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia including Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Although PBA results in considerable distress for patients and caretakers, it is underrecognized and undertreated. Agents used to treat psychiatric disorders–particularly tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors–are useful in alleviating PBA, but act on diffuse neural networks rather than targeting those involved in emotional motor expression. As a result of their nonspecific activity, these agents are associated with a range of unwanted effects that preclude many patients from using them. Dextromethorphan, a common cough suppressant, specifically targets sigma1 receptors concentrated in the brainstem and cerebellum, thus providing the possibility of targeting regions implicated in emotional expression. When administered in a fixed combination with quinidine, dextromethorphan is effective in treating PBA in patients with ALS, and preliminary results suggest that this therapy also is effective in treating MS-related PBA.


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