09| Electrical Injuries: Cognitive and Emotional Sequelae – A Conversation With Dr. Neil Pliskin

Electrical injuries often result in diffuse cognitive symptoms and mood changes.  In this episode, we discuss the ins and outs of this unique injury with Neil Pliskin, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, former president of APA Div. 40, who has done a significant amount of clinical work and research with this population.

A pdf of the transcript for this episode is available here.

If you’d like to receive APA-approved CE credit for listening to this episode, click here.

Topics Covered

  • The mechanism of injury to the body and the brain following exposure to an electrical current
  • Sociodemographic characteristics of people who typically sustain electrical injuries
  • Heterogeneity in injury characteristics and clinical implications of this variability
  • The impact of thermal injuries, as well as orthopedic injuries secondary to falls (e.g., off of a ladder) 
  • Similarities and differences between the neuropsychological profile of electrical injuries and traumatic brain injuries 
  • The high prevalence of emotional symptoms after electrical injuries – potential causes and clinical implications 
  • The potential for PTSD after an electrical injury
  • The speculative connection between electricity-induced emotion dysregulation and the therapeutic effects of electroconvulsive therapy
  • Potential explanations for the surprising finding of worsening symptoms from the acute to the post-acute stage following an electrical injury
  • The role of litigation in neuropsychological evaluations of patients with electrical injuries

 About Neil

Dr. Neil Pliskin is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Neurology in the University of Illinois College of Medicine.  He serves as Director of Neuropsychology services at UI Health, and has had 30 years of experience working as a clinical neuropsychologist and directing clinical neuropsychology training programs.  Neil is past president of the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology of the American Psychological Association and has served as APA advisor to the AMA/CPT Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee since 2009.

Selected References

Aase, D. M., Fink, J. W., Lee, R. C., Kelley, K. M., & Pliskin, N. H. (2014). Mood and cognition after electrical injury: A follow-up study. Archives of clinical neuropsychology29(2), 125-130.

Pliskin, N. H., Capelli-Schellpfeffer, M., Law, R. T., Malina, A. C., Kelley, K. M., & Lee, R. C. (1998). Neuropsychological symptom presentation after electrical injury. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery44(4), 709-715.

Pliskin, N. H., Fink, J., Malina, A., Moran, S., Kelley, K. M., Capelli‐Schellpfeffer, M., & Lee, R. (1999). The neuropsychological effects of electrical injury: new insights. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences888(1), 140-149.

Pliskin, N. H., Meyer, G. J., Dolske, M. C., Heilbronner, R. L., Kelley, K. M., & Lee, R. C. (1994). Neuropsychiatric aspects of electrical injury: a review of neuropsychological research. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences720(1), 219-223.

Ramati, A., Pliskin, N. H., Keedy, S., Erwin, R. J., Fink, J. W., Bodnar, E. N., … & Sweeney, J. A. (2009). Alteration in functional brain systems after electrical injury. Journal of neurotrauma26(10), 1815-1822.

Silva, L. M. A., Cooper, M. A., Blumenthal, R., & Pliskin, N. (2016). A follow-up study of a large group of children struck by lightning. South African Medical Journal106(9), 929-932.

Wesner, M. L., & Hickie, J. (2013). Long-term sequelae of electrical injury. Canadian family physician59(9), 935-939.

Wicklund, A. H., Ammar, A., Weitlauf, J. C., Heilbronner, R. L., Fink, J., Lee, R. C., … & Pliskin, N. H. (2008). MMPI-2 patterns in electrical injury: A controlled investigation. The Clinical Neuropsychologist22(1), 98-111.



  1. This was so fascinating and not an area where I’ve had too much exposure. Very well done!

  2. I recently received my diagnosis from the Sunnybrook Hospital out of Toronto, Canada. One of the only two hospitals in North America that studies this injury. This injury needs major awareness across North America. I remember losing my legs three times in a year and I was so confused as to what was happening. The most horrific, painful experience I have ever had.

    1. I am so sorry to hear of your experience and hope things have improved. I agree at the need for more awareness to this type of injury. It’s scary when you need help and there is none.
      I saw Sunnybrook Hospital in my searches but wonder if they accept non-Canadian patients?
      and if they do – what the cost would be?

  3. I recently suffered an electrical injury (6 weeks ago) and am struggling to find treatment and help in New York. This is terrifying and no one seems to be taking me seriously. If anyone knows where I may seek counsel as to what is happening to me please reply or comment.

    1. Rose look at CETRI, the Chicago Electrical Trauma Research Institute.

      Their hospital or Sunnybrook. I assume CETRI would be easier seeing you are in the US

  4. This was an excellent discussion and the points made regarding the interplay of emotional changes and cognitive changes applies to many neurological conditions, and should always be attended to when evaluating our patients. After almost 30 years of supervising psychology students and interns, I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Pliskin’s advice about making sure you have a solid foundation of generalist training and learn to work with teams on practical problem-solving, as well as learning brief psychotherapy.

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