Pseudobulbar affect is a neurological disease that causes uncontrollable laughter or crying. It is caused by damage to the brain, which can be due to a number of diseases that affect the brain. Neurodegenerative diseases and PBA go hand in hand. These diseases can affect the way emotion is controlled. PBA can be caused by multiple conditions that affect the brain such as a traumatic brain injury, parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis among other illnesses.
Below we go over conditions that can cause pseudobulbar affect:
1. Parkinson’s disease (PD)
The Parkinson foundation recognizes pseudobulbar affect as a condition that may develop as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Approximately 24% of people with Parkinson’s develop PBA. Parkinson’s disease is known to affect the nervous system which can result in pseudobulbar affect by disrupting brain signaling and triggering an episode. Making note of episodes and how they present themselves can aid in proper diagnosis.
2. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
MS causes the body’s immune system to attack the myelin sheath. A protective sheath that covers the brain’s nerve fibers assisting your brain in sending signals needed for communication, movement control, and other important functions connected to your nervous system. Disruption of movement control can impair your brain’s ability to control sudden episodes of crying or laughter.
3. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that directly affects nerve cells in the brains as well as the spinal cord. People with ALS may develop pseudobulbar affect as a result of ALS involvement with upper motor neurons in the brain which reaches from the brain to the spinal cord.
Dementia causes damage to brain cells interfering with their ability to communicate with one another. When these cells have issues communicating properly it can result in abnormal behavior, thoughts, or feelings. PBA is an uncontrollable condition driven by damage that diminishes the ability to control emotions.
5. Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that destroys neurons and their connections. Later stages of the disease affect the cerebral cortex which is responsible for things like reasoning and social behaviors. This section of the brain also plays a major role in the ability to control emotions.
6. Traumatic brain injury
Injury to the brain can affect different areas of the brain and cause miscommunications in the brain or damage to the cells and neurons. This damage can cause uncontrollable crying or laughter. These symptoms may be misdiagnosed as depression. However, as more becomes known about PBA and its correlation to damage in the brain more patients with a TBI have been diagnosed with pseudobulbar affect.
Stroke causes brain tissue to die which interrupts the brain’s communication and regulatory control. This damage to the tissue creates issues with communication and the ability to regulate emotions which can cause symptoms of pseudobulbar affect.
8. Brain tumors
Brain tumors can cause many adverse symptoms due to the presence of a foreign growth in the brain. Depending on the location of the tumor your brain’s ability to regulate emotions may be disrupted. Removal of the tumor may alleviate symptoms however, damage or removal of tissue may cause the symptoms to persist.
Pseudobulbar affect can be caused by any one of these conditions that affect your brain’s ability to regulate your emotions and communicate properly. While it may be caused by a neuro disease, pseudobulbar is a condition that requires its own diagnosis. Consulting with a clinician and going over the symptoms will help them pinpoint if PBA is the cause for the symptoms.