Brain injuries are one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. It is estimated that nearly half of patients who develop severe sequelae will continue with a chronic severe disability despite having received an appropriate rehabilitation program. For more than 3 decades, there has been a worldwide effort to investigate the possibility of pharmacologically stimulating the neuroplasticity process for enhancing the recovery of these patients.
The objective of this article is to make a critical and updated review of the available evidence that supports the positive effect of different drugs on the recovery from brain injury.
To date, there have been several clinical trials that tested different drugs that act on different neurotransmitter systems: catecholaminergic, cholinergic, serotonergic, and glutamatergic. There is both basic and clinical evidence that may support some positive effect of these drugs on motor, cognitive, and language skills; however, only few of the available studies are of sufficient methodological quality (placebo controlled, randomized, blinded, multicenter, etc) to make solid conclusions about their beneficial effects.
Currently, the pharmacological stimulation of neuroplasticity still does not have enough scientific evidence to make a systematic therapeutic recommendation for all patients, but it certainly is a feasible and very promising field for future research.
*Subdivision de Neurobiología, Departamento de Neurociencias, †Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación “Luis Guillermo Ibarra Ibarra”; and ‡Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición, Mexico City, México.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Paul Carrillo-Mora, MD, PhD, Subdivisión de Neurobiología, Departamento de Neurociencias, Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación “Luis Guillermo Ibarra Ibarra,” Calz México-Xochimilco 289, Arenal de Guadalupe, México City 14389, México; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.