Brain trauma is often associated with severe morbidity and is a major public health concern. Even when injury is mild and no obvious anatomic disruption is seen, many individuals suffer disabling neuropsychological impairments such as memory loss, mood dysfunction, substance abuse, and adjustment disorder. These changes may be related to subtle disruption of neural circuits as well as functional changes at the neurotransmitter level. In particular, there is considerable evidence that dopamine (DA) physiology in the nigrostriatal and mesocorticolimbic pathways might be impaired after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Alterations in DA levels can lead to oxidative stress and cellular dysfunction, and DA plays an important role in central nervous system inflammation. Therapeutic targeting of DA pathways may offer benefits for both neuronal survival and functional outcome after TBI. The purpose of this review is to discuss the role of DA pathology in acute TBI and the potential impact of therapies that target these systems for the treatment of TBI.
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