It’s 10/10… #MentalAs. But have you heard about Huntington’s – Part 1

As you’re likely already very aware – today is World Mental Health Day which coincides perfectly with our Aussie Mental Health Week. There is so much to share and never enough space to share it in…

From ABC’s hashtag social media campaign #MentalAs to Mental Health Australia’s post your mental health promise the depth and breadth of awareness raising, to tips on how to stay mentally healthy are vast and frankly, quite wonderful! Here at IIOY we highly recommend booting your computer up and loading iView to watch the three part series on Changing Minds – The Inside Story, but please note the series does have an M-rated classification so viewer discretion is advised.

IIOY is fascinated by all things in the mind and this week, in honour of Mental Health Week and the vast array of forms illness and disease takes, we decided to investigate the rare neurodegenerative disease Huntington’s.

We highly recommend listening to the pod-cast called Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde as aired on This American Life in April 2013 about a doctor, a former doctor and the genetic disease:

As Benjamin settles in at the clinic, and people got to know him, something interesting happens. Vince’s former patients – who are now Benjamin’s patients – start talking to him about Vince. What he finds out surprises him. postquote1

Here’s what we have learnt so far about HD:

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is an inherited brain disease that causes deterioration of the physical (movement disorders including chorea), cognitive (dementia) and emotional-self, progressing for 10-20 years after onset. It’s genetic. This means that if a diagnosis is conclusive, there is a 50% chance that HD will be inherited by offspring – and according to this source, not all who are at risk of inheriting the disease opt to take the genetic test to determine whether they in fact have it. HD is caused by the expansion of a trinucleotide (CAG) repeat in a single gene that is autosomal dominant – this means basically that the HD gene is faulty.

HD often encompasses difficult behaviours and psychiatric symptoms including depression, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions however these are often well managed through medication.

MRI scans of people suffering from HD show atrophy of specific regions of the brain not limited to but importantly the caudate which operates much like a ‘gate’ and significantly this ‘gate’ has the most connections through to the frontal lobes and influences mood, motor skill and cognition. There is no cure for this deterioration however resent research has showed promising results in gene-environment interactions. Read more here.

HD is a fascinating yet devastatingly incurable disease. Symptoms occur at different phases of the illness with potential to wax and wane and may not be experienced by all who are diagnosed. The environment plays a key role in severity of symptom expression and provided benefical effects for sufferers by enriching their environments.

For more information please click on the link below. IIOY hopes to follow up on the behavioral and psychological symptoms of HD.

Understanding Behaviour in Huntington’s Disease

Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of HD

Behavioural Neuroscience

Huntington’s Western Australia

This American Life Podcast

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