Objective: To review the clinical features, neurobiological correlates and treatment of pathological laughing and crying. Method: Selective literature review.
Results: Attacks of involuntary, irresistible laughing or crying have long been recognised as sequelae of brain damage. There is controversy about the clinical features of these attacks, the stimuli that provoke them and their relation to affective disorder. The pathophysiology of pathological laughing and crying is still unclear. It can occur in the presence of focal as well as diffuse brain disease. Treatment with antidepressant medications has been found to be of benefit in patients with cerebrovascular disease and multiple sclerosis.
Conclusions: Clinicians should remain vigilant for these symptoms, and offer effective treatments, such as antidepressants, where indicated. Further research is needed to delineate the underlying neurobiological correlates of pathological laughing and crying. The efficacy of both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions requires critical evaluation.