Excerpt from Treating the Brain


The Human Brain, Complex But Fascinating

Patients need to understand what they are suffering from and what they are likely to face as they deal with their disease. Doctors should provide that information and help the patient understand the cause of the disease and its treatment. An informed patient handles the condition better and is more likely to follow the doctor’s treatment recommendations. The initial dialogue about the disease, its diagnosis and treatment is the most important part of establishing a good doctor-patient relationship. Patients particularly want to know what is going to happen and doctors are often reluctant to talk about the prognosis. Nowhere is truer than in the field of neurological diseases.

Forty years ago when I became a neurologist, the lay public had access to very little information about neurological diseases, other than through their doctors….

 It is not uncommon for patients to come to me having made their own diagnosis from the Internet….However, information from the Internet has its problems. Much of what patients find on the Web is inaccurate and much of it is commercially based. Even if the information is accurate, often patients do not have enough background knowledge to be able to interpret the complexity of medical diagnosis and treatment.

This book is truly intended to make neurology understandable to the layman. It covers some of the most common neurological conditions, how they are diagnosed and treated, and what is their likely outcome. It is particularly intended for patients and others who are interested. But I also hope that it will interest many other people in what I call “the Last Frontier,” namely the brain….

I have included many stories about patients in this book. Patients make up a large part of the life of a physician, even for someone like me who is involved in a good deal of research and administration. Many of the insights into the normal and abnormal function of the nervous system come from stories of individual patients. That is why we need more than just neuroscientists doing research on the nervous system and more than just neurologists caring for patients. The neurologist-neuroscientist plays a critical role, taking problems from the bedside and investigating them in the laboratory. That person then needs to teach patients and students.

…The vignettes in this book are all derived from people I have met over the years. Some of the details have been changed to maintain patient privacy and at times I have combined the stories of two patients for conciseness….However, I have tried to maintain the spirit of each person’s history while using the vignettes to tell a story.

If you or a loved one has a neurological problem, then your interest in the brain and neurology is much more personal. You want to know as much as possible about your particular condition; how the neurologist made the diagnosis and whether it was correct; the latest information about the condition and how is it treated; what is going to happen to you. Most of all, you want reassurance that you are being cared for in the best possible fashion.

In this book I will present enough information for someone who wants to know about each condition, whether it be you or a loved one who has been given the diagnosis.  I will try to make the information understandable and help you though the morass of detail. I will try to present the good and the bad, but always leave you with hope; hope that comes from a clearer understanding about the disease and current treatments, and hope that comes from on-going research.…