Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a neurological condition involving involuntary, sudden and frequent episodes of laughing or crying. It occurs secondary to neurological disease – meaning that PBA is caused by another disorder – and is most commonly found in patients with:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
Normally, the cerebral cortex (at the front of the brain) communicates with the cerebellum (at the back of the brain) to control our emotional responses to situations. But, sometimes, the cerebellum becomes damaged by lesions or nerve problems, disrupting communication between these two areas. PBA is thought to result from this miscommunication. It’s almost like the brain “short circuits” and one can no longer control their emotional response.
Five Facts About PBA
- PBA is a condition that occurs secondary to a neurological disorder or brain injury.
- Because crying is a common symptom, people often confuse PBA with depression. But PBA is different. It’s neurological – caused by damage to the nervous system. Depression is psychological – related to a person’s emotional or mental state.
- PBA episodes – such as uncontrollable laughter or involuntary crying – are unpredictable. They can occur any time and last several seconds or minutes.
- People who experience PBA (and their caregivers and those around them) may feel frustrated, embarrassed, worried and/or confused. Untreated, PBA may negatively impact everything from relationships and social situations to work and quality of life. Treatment can help.
- Symptoms can range from mildly disturbing to seizure-like episodes.