Jun 2, 2020
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is much more than a movement disorder. It can have wide ranging effects throughout the body. In terms of the brain, people with PD may experience changes in cognition, mood, emotion, perception, attention, sleep, memory, motivation, and the senses, as well as drug-induced behavioral changes. One of the key professionals on a comprehensive PD treatment team is the neuropsychologist, a person with training and expertise in asking questions and administering screening and assessment tests to evaluate a person’s mental abilities and psychological state. Deficits in one or more of these areas can make it difficult to control motor symptoms such as tremor and balance.
Depending on the results of the evaluations, the neuropsychologist can work with other team members to implement therapies and teach strategies to improve the life of the person with PD. Also, it may be useful to have a neuropsychological evaluation early in the course of the disease to establish a baseline so that a neurologist can later determine if changes, especially in cognition, are related to medications, to progression of the PD itself, or to other factors such as depression. In this episode, Dr. Travis Turner, Director of the Division of Neuropsychology and chief liaison to the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, discusses the role of the neuropsychologist, the process of neuropsychological evaluation, and some of the kinds of problems he deals with.