Organic brain syndrome

Organic brain syndrome
Organic brain syndrome
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F06.9
ICD-9 310.9
DiseasesDB 9266
MedlinePlus 001401
eMedicine emerg/345
MeSH D019965

Organic brain syndrome (OBS), also known as organic brain disease (OBD) or organic brain disorder, is an older and nearly obsolete general term from psychiatry, referring to many physical disorders that cause impaired mental function.[1] It usually does not include psychiatric disorders. Originally, the term was created to distinguish physical (termed "organic") causes of mental impairment from psychiatric (termed "functional") disorders, but this division became increasingly difficult to make as the physical correlates of mental problems become more numerous. Thus, the term (which was never well-defined) is now almost officially obsolete term in psychiatry, having been removed from DSM-IV, but still occasionally used in practice and in the literature.

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–however this is not guaranteed (a recent-onset problem may continue to be chronic or 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, Alzheimer's disease, or other damaging causes which are not reversible.

Though OBS is a common diagnosis in the elderly, like the various types of dementias it is related to a disease processes 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.


Associated conditions

Disorders that cause 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.


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.


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

  • Chronic organic brain syndrome
  • OBS
  • Organic mental disorder


  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]" (in German). Psychiatr Prax 22 (6): 231–4. PMID 8570753. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Khan A, Joyce P, Jones AV (August 1980). "Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndromes". N. Z. Med. J. 92 (665): 94–6. PMID 6107888. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • organic brain syndrome — noun Date: 1966 an acute or chronic mental dysfunction (as Alzheimer s disease) resulting chiefly from physical changes in brain structure and characterized especially by impaired cognition …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • acute organic brain syndrome — delirium. 2. occasionally, a term used to denote the acute form of an organic mental syndrome …   Medical dictionary

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  • acute organic brain syndrome — noun any disorder (as sudden confusion or disorientation) in an otherwise normal person that is due to reversible (temporary) impairment of brain tissues (as by head injuries or drugs or infection) • Syn: ↑acute brain disorder • Hypernyms:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • organic mental syndrome — former term for a constellation of psychological or behavioral signs and symptoms associated with brain dysfunction of unknown or unspecified etiology and grouped according to symptoms (cf. organic mental disorder). Designating certain conditions …   Medical dictionary

  • Organic disease — An organic disease is one which involves or affects physiology or bodily organs. A disease in which there is a physiological change to some tissue or organ of the body. Organic disease may also be used to mean a condition that is not caused by an …   Wikipedia

  • syndrome — The aggregate of symptoms and signs associated with any morbid process, and constituting together the picture of the disease. SEE ALSO: disease. [G. s., a running together, tumultuous concourse; (in med.) a concurrence of symptoms, fr. syn,… …   Medical dictionary

  • organicbrain syndrome — organic brain syndrome n. Any of various disorders of cognition caused by permanent or temporary brain dysfunction and characterized especially by dementia. * * * …   Universalium

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