Organic brain syndrome

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Organic brain syndrome
SpecialtyPsychiatry Edit this on Wikidata

An organic brain syndrome (OBS), also known as an organic brain disease/disorder (OBD), an organic mental syndrome (OMS), or an organic mental disorder (OMD), is a syndrome or disorder of mental function whose cause is alleged to be known as organic (physiologic) rather than purely of the mind. These names are older and nearly obsolete general terms from psychiatry, referring to many physical disorders that cause impaired mental function.[1] They are meant to exclude psychiatric disorders (mental disorders). Originally, the term was created to distinguish physical (termed "organic") causes of mental impairment from psychiatric (termed "functional") disorders, but during the era when this distinction was drawn, not enough was known about brain science (including neuroscience, cognitive science, neuropsychology, and mind-brain correlation) for this cause-based classification to be more than educated guesswork labeled with misplaced certainty, which is why it has been deemphasized in current medicine.

Acute organic brain syndrome is (by definition) a recently appearing state of mental impairment, as a result of intoxication, drug overdose, infection, pain, and many other physical problems affecting mental status. In medical contexts, "acute" means "of recent onset". As is the case with most acute disease problems, acute organic brain syndrome is often temporary, although this does not guarantee that it will not recur (happen again) or progress to become chronic, that is, long-term. A more specific medical term for the acute subset of organic brain syndromes is delirium.[2]

Chronic organic brain syndrome is long-term. For example, some forms of chronic drug or alcohol dependence can cause organic brain syndrome due to their long-lasting or permanent toxic effects on brain function.[3] Other common causes of chronic organic brain syndrome sometimes listed are the various types of dementia, which result from permanent brain damage due to strokes,[4] Alzheimer's disease, or other damaging causes which are not reversible.

Though OBS was once a common diagnosis in the elderly, until the understanding of the various types of dementias it is related to a disease process and is not an inevitable part of aging. In some of the older literature, there was an attempt to separate organic brain syndrome from dementia, but this was related to an older world view in which dementia was thought to be a part of normal aging, and thus did not represent a special disease process. The later identification of various dementias as clear pathologies is an example of the types of pathological problems discovered to be associated with mental states, and is one of the areas which led to abandonment of all further attempts to clearly define and use OBS as a term.


Symptoms of OBS vary with the disease that is responsible. However, the more common symptoms of OBS are confusion; impairment of memory, judgment, and intellectual function; and agitation. Often these symptoms are attributed to psychiatric illness, which causes a difficulty in diagnosis.

Associated conditions[edit]

Disorders that are related to injury or damage to the brain and contribute to OBS include, but are not limited to:

Other conditions that may be related to organic brain syndrome include: clinical depression, neuroses, and psychoses, which may occur simultaneously with the OBS.


Diagnosis by mini mental status examination


Treatment of OBS varies with the causative disorder or disease. It is important to note that it is not a primary diagnosis and a cause needs to be sought out and treated.

Other names[edit]


  1. ^ "MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Organic brain syndrome". Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  2. ^ "acute organic brain syndrome" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  3. ^ a b Luderer HJ, Schulz M, Mayer M (November 1995). "[Long-term administration of benzodiazepines--disease follow-up, sequelae, treatment. A retrospective clinical record evaluation of 194 patients]". Psychiatr Prax (in German). 22 (6): 231–4. PMID 8570753.
  4. ^ Kuźma, Elżbieta; Lourida, Ilianna; Moore, Sarah F.; Levine, Deborah A.; Ukoumunne, Obioha C.; Llewellyn, David J. (August 2018). "Stroke and dementia risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis". Alzheimer's & Dementia. 0 (11): 1416–1426. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.3061. ISSN 1552-5260. PMC 6231970.
  5. ^ Martin PR, Adinoff B, Weingartner H, Mukherjee AB, Eckardt MJ (1986). "Alcoholic organic brain disease: nosology and pathophysiologic mechanisms". Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry. 10 (2): 147–64. doi:10.1016/0278-5846(86)90069-2. PMID 2875490.
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ Rogers, M. P; Bloomingdale, K; Murawski, B. J; Soter, N. A; Reich, P; Austen, K. F (1986). "Mixed organic brain syndrome as a manifestation of systemic mastocytosis". Psychosomatic Medicine. 48 (6): 437–47. doi:10.1097/00006842-198607000-00006. PMID 3749421.
  8. ^ "Organic brain syndrome". MedlinePlus.
  9. ^ Khan A, Joyce P, Jones AV (August 1980). "Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndromes". N. Z. Med. J. 92 (665): 94–6. PMID 6107888.

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