Objective: To test the hypothesis that treatment with bromocriptine would ameliorate deficits in clinical motivation, responsiveness to reward, and frontal cognitive function after brain injury.
Method: An open trial in six men and five women who had had either traumatic brain injury or subarachnoid haemorrhage between two months and five years previously. After repeated baseline assessments, bromocriptine was given in gradually increasing doses. Assessments were repeated at increasing doses, during maintenance, and after withdrawal. Novel structured instruments for quantifying motivation were developed; measures of anxiety and depression, and cognitive tests sensitive to motivation or frontal lobe involvement were also given.
Results: Bromocriptine treatment was followed by improved scores on all measures other than mood. Improvement was maintained after bromocriptine withdrawal in eight of the patients.
Conclusion: Poor motivation in patients with brain injury may result from dysfunction in the mesolimbic/mesocortical dopaminergic circuitry, giving rise to associated deficiencies in reward responsiveness and frontal cognitive function.