Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Neurological diseases: The more I know, the more I want to know

Written by Josie Wright, BA candidate in psychology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program- Aging and Neurological Diseases Track

The virtual Summer Research Program in Aging and Neurological Diseases was an amazing experience. I loved learning about everything we discussed throughout the program. I was especially interested to learn about the different ways a stroke can affect a survivor. Matthew Wynn, a graduate student in the Psychological & Brain Sciences, presented that a stroke can result in dementia. Dementia is the symptoms that are caused by a disease or traumatic brain injury. I believed in the past that dementia was a disease that was similar to Alzheimer’s disease. It was surprising to learn that dementia is not a disease at all.

Alex W.K Wong, PhD, DPhil, OT, CRC, who is a professor in the Program in Occupational Therapy, and Ryan J. Walsh, MS, OTR/L, a PhD student in the Program in Occupational Therapy, spoke about the causes and effects of a stroke. They also introduced rehabilitation therapy that is utilized in working with stroke survivors. It was interesting to learn how the effects of a stroke can vary widely from one survivor to another. Some patients are left with lifelong deficits, while through therapy other patients can fully recover and gain back all of their abilities.

Even if the patient will end up with permanent deficits, therapy is very helpful in decreasing the severity of the symptoms. I have experienced brain damage that was caused by brain cancer. My rehabilitation consisted of some of the same types of outpatient therapy that stroke patients receive. I underwent speech therapy and occupational therapy. Both forms of therapy helped me to be able to return to school. I still have some symptoms of memory and word finding deficits, but because of the therapy my speech and memory improved significantly. It is so beneficial that therapy is available after any type of damage to the brain.

Before learning about stroke, I never realized how many different types of therapy are so useful for those who have experienced a stroke. Ever since undergoing therapy myself, my goal has been to work in neuropsychology providing cognitive therapy. It was amazing to learn more about what I am planning to work with in the future. My participation in the summer program has certainly piqued my interest to dig deeper into the field of neuroscience and neurological diseases. The more I learn about the subject, the greater my passion towards neuropsychology grows. I am so thankful for having been accepted into this research program and having learned so much. I definitely enjoyed it!