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About Brain Injury

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a neurological condition involving involuntary, sudden, and frequent episodes of laughing or crying.

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)
  • Stroke
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease 

Normally, the cerebral cortex communicates with the cerebellum to control our emotional responses to situations. 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 Pseudobulbar Affect Disorder

  1. PBA is a condition that occurs secondary to a neurological disorder or brain injury.
  2. 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, so it’s related to a person’s emotional or mental state.
  3. PBA episodes, which often involve uncontrollable laughter or involuntary crying, are unpredictable. They can occur any time and last several seconds or minutes.
  4. People who experience PBA (and their caregivers and those around them) may feel frustrated, embarrassed, worried, or confused. Untreated, PBA may negatively affect everything from relationships and social situations to work and quality of life. Treatment can help.
  5. Symptoms can range from mildly disturbing to seizure-like episodes.

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You can join our community and get a free copy of our PBA Self-Advocacy Toolkit, which includes an overview of PBA, including signs and symptoms, PBA Episode Journal, fact sheets on how to talk with health care providers, and more.

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