2011 issue 1


Volume 20, issue 1

Review article

The role of neuropsychologists in the assessment and treatment of Huntington’s disease

Emilia J. Sitek1,2,3, Witold Sołtan1,3
1. Oddział Neurologii, Szpital Specjalistyczny Św. Wojciecha, Gdańsk
2. Zakład Pielęgniarstwa Neurologiczno-Psychiatrycznego, Gdański Uniwersytet Medyczny, Gdańsk
3. Gdański Ośrodek European Huntington’s Disease Networkprzy Szpitalu Specjalistycznym Św. Wojciecha, Gdańsk
Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2011; 20(1): 23–31
Keywords: Huntington’s disease, cognitive dysfunction, neuropsychological assessment, psychoeducation


Objectives. The paper presents the role of the neuropsychologist in care of patients with Huntington's disease (HD), the profile of cognitive dysfunction in HD, as well as suggestions for neuropsychological assessment planning, interpretation of test results, and for psychoeducational interventions.
Review. The major tasks of the neuropsychologist working with HD patients include the neuropsychological assessment of the patient (both in the clinical and preclinical stages) and psychoeducational interventions for his/her caregivers. The dementing process, traditionally considered to be subcortical, is inevitable in HD. Executive dysfunction and working memory impairment predominate in the clinical picture. Neuropsychological assessment in HD requires knowledge about the symptom specificity, cooperation with the doctor in charge of the patient (a neurologist and/or psychiatrist) as well as taking into account in the interpretation of test results all factors that may affect the patient's performance.
Conclusions. Neuropsychologists, besides neurologists and psychiatrists, are essential members of the HD care team. The neuropsychological assessment, if properly conducted, belongs among the most important diagnostic procedures (complementary to the neurological, psychiatric, genetic and neuroimaging examinations) allowing to evaluate the disease severity, progression rate and treatment efficacy. The neuropsychological assessment may also provide grounds for psychoeducational intervention planning.

Address for correspondence:
Emilia Sitek
Oddział Neurologii, Szpital Specjalistyczny Św. Wojciecha w Gdańsku
Al. Jana Pawła II 50, 80‒462 Gdańsk
e-mail: emiliasitek@gumed.edu.pl