10. Discussing the effects of Lyme disease on the brain with Dr. Leo Shea III

Looking at Lyme, episode 10 with Dr. Leo Shea.

In this episode Sarah talks about the effects of Lyme disease on the brain with Dr. Shea, a senior staff psychologist, professor and President of Neuropsychological Evaluation and Treatment Services in New York City and Boston. Dr. Shea starts off by explaining many of the effects that Lyme disease has on the brain including the ability to process information, changes in memory, multitasking and high level reasoning. He also explains the importance of understanding the effects on the brain and mental health in terms of what is going on physically to cause these changes. He uses neuropsychological evaluation to measure changes in a person’s cognitive, emotional and behavioural function as a result of Lyme disease. Dr. Shea also notes that results of imaging tools such as a SPECT scan often reflect findings in neuropsychological testing in patients.

“When it does get to the brain…it reduces the person’s ability to function, not only in their general daily life, but certainly in their professional or academic life.”

Dr. Leo Shea

We are introduced to the concept of psychoeducation: educating families, teachers, and employers to better support Lyme patients at home, in school and in returning back to work. Dr. Shea gives a few examples of how students can be supported in their learning. He talks about the added social burden that pediatric and adolescent patients experience within their peer groups, and the implications for those patients. Dr. Shea also touches on the challenge that people with dark skin have in getting a diagnosis of Lyme disease in part due to the different appearance of bites and rashes on darker skin tones.

“Psychoeducation is important so that everybody has an understanding of what this patient is going through and what their role is in supporting the patient”

Dr. Leo Shea

Dr. Shea describes the preceptorship program for physicians through ILADEF, where they are mentored by physicians with many years of experience treating patients with Lyme disease. These physicians (who have treated many Lyme disease patients) have gained a wealth of knowledge and clinical experience that they are able to share. He leaves us with a reminder that much more research is needed in the area of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

Related resources

“There’s a need for an enormous amount of research into this so that we get a better understanding of not only Lyme, but all the other tick-borne illnesses”

Dr. Leo Shea

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