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Psychiatric issues common in brain disease

According to researchers at the University of Texas, people with degenerative brain disease are most likely to have treatable psychiatric disorders. Huntington's disease is a fatal, //degenerative brain disease which affects the cerebellum, the brain area which controls movement.

Traditionally there's been a separation between neurological disease - like Huntington's - and psychiatric problems, such as depression. But researchers at Johns Hopkins University now reveal that there is a big area of overlap.

They found that 81 per cent of a group of Huntington's patients suffered from a recognisable psychiatric disorder, such as depression, personality disorder or dementia. They found similar rates among patients with other diseases of the cerebellum. In a way this is hardly surprising - who wouldn't be depressed if diagnosed with degenerative brain disease? What's new here is that the researchers believe that the cerebellum may be involved in cognition and emotion.

Previously, it's been assumed the role of this part of the brain was confined to control of movement. The good news is that although the brain condition can't be reversed or treated, psychiatric disorders such as depression are treatable. Addressing such problems in those with Huntington's could greatly improve quality of life - for the patients and their families.


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