The effect of combined therapies on recovery after acquired brain injury: Systematic review of preclinical studies combining enriched environment, exercise, or task-specific training with other therapies

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Background: Acquired brain injuries (ABI) have devastating effects for the affected individual as well as society. Many studies have investigated the effect of different monotherapies. However, functional recovery is typically only partial. One possible strategy to promote a greater degree of recovery is to apply monotherapies in combination with one or more treatments.
Objective: The objective of this systematic review is to investigate if approaches combining enriched environment (EE), exercise, or task-specific training with other monotherapies, further enhance the degree of recovery after ABI.
Method: Scopus, PsychINFO, and PubMed databases were searched in March 2016 with the following search strings: exercise (or) enriched environment (or) environmental enrichment (or) rehabilitation (and) traumatic brain injury (or) ischemia (or) stroke (and) rat (or) rodent. Studies were included if they (1) were in English, (2) used adult animals subjected to brain injury, (3) included EE, and/or exercise, and/or task-specific training as post-injury treatment strategies, (4) included at least one group receiving another monotherapy. Out of 2.168 hits, 29 studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria.
Results. Despite several trends for enhanced recovery after combined therapies, this systematic review of 29 studies does not indicate that combined therapies confer consistent combined effects on motor, cognitive, or cerebral recovery according to present criteria for combined effect.
Conclusion. Combined treatments continue to provide hope for enhanced recovery after ABI, however, the research area is in its infancy. This systematic review does not provide conclusive evidence. This is likely due to sparse knowledge regarding optimal treatment parameters. Combined treatments, however, hold the best promise regarding treatment of the complex changes induced by ABI.
Keywords: Acquired brain injury; exercise; enriched environment; combined therapies; animal models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)25-64
Publication statusPublished - 2017

ID: 169966669