Dr. Sonone, an adult neurologist based out of Germantown TN, spent time with us talking about the role of neurology and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tara: Thank you for the interview today. Could you please explain the most common diseases that a neurologist usually treats?
Dr. Sonone: Neurologists usually treat diseases related to the central nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. In addition, a neurologist would also treat muscle diseases.
Tara: Could you tell us about subspecialties under neurology?
Dr. Sonone: The sub specialties include but are not limited to stroke/vascular neurology, epilepsy, movement disorders, neuromuscular disorders, and headache.
Tara: In your experience, what are the most common neurodegenerative diseases?
Dr. Sonone: Dementia is most common, others are movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Tara: What are the most important factors that cause neurodegenerative diseases? Is it genetic or environmental?
Dr. Sonone: It depends on the condition. But most of the time it is not caused by just any one single issue. Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle are all a part of the factors for e.g. diet, alcohol, or smoking. Genetic factors may predispose causing a higher risk in certain people.
Tara: People forget sometimes, but when is the time that forgetfulness should be a concern?
Dr. Sonone: That’s a good question. It should be a concern when people forget names, or abilities to do something at the same time, such as multitasking. Red flags include forgetting names of good friends, trouble with simple words or forgetting how to operate simple things like a TV remote. Or behavior changes, like forgetting to take shower or brush teeth.
Tara: What type of dementia is most common? Is it Alzheimer’s?
Dr. Sonone: Yes, it’s Alzheimer’s. The US has about 6-7 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Tara: When treating dementia patients, how often do you recommend lifestyle improvements?
Dr. Sonone: I recommend it all the time for all patients, it’s very important.
Tara: How is the way neurologists prescribe medicine different from how psychiatrists prescribe medicine?
Dr. Sonone: In general, neurologists have different types of medicines they use. Psychiatrists use a different set of medications. These can overlap. For example, patients of multiple sclerosis which is a neurological disease need a treatment by certain medicine, but these patients could have depression which needs anti-depressants which are usually prescribed by the psychiatrist.
Hana: What medicine do you typically recommend for Alzheimer’s patients? And would that slow down the process of the disease?
Dr. Sonone: That’s a good question. We use several medicines for Alzheimer’s patients to improve certain functions like alertness. However, the medicine we currently have does not stop or slow down the process of Alzheimer’s. It is likely there will be new medicines coming early next year.
Hana: How do you distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other dementia?
Dr. Sonone: It is usually based on the tests. The first one is called a neuropsychological test. It is a series of questions that allow doctors to determine what kind of dementia a patient has. Other tests could be MRI of the brain, a CT scan, or a PET scan. Fluid tests such as CSF testing also provide information about blood, genetics, and protein for Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Hana: Our project, Musical Memories, is about playing music for patients. How does music affect the brain in general?
Dr. Sonone: In general, music helps the overall function of the brain. It can help behavior in dementia patients. However, I believe we need more studies to find out how music specifically help dementia/ Alzheimer’s.
Hana: Do you think we can recommend music as a treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia in some capacity?
Dr. Sonone: Yes, it is certainly helpful in managing some aspects of the disease based on some studies. Music along with physical activities such as dancing would be very helpful. Especially specialized music that patients are familiar with could have a higher impact. It also can improve the living conditions for other kinds of suffering like depression, allowing them to be more relaxed and enhancing socialization.
Hana: Can you recommend a resource about Alzheimer’s for non-professional people to learn about the disease.
Dr. Sonone: Sure. We recommend people to check out the National Alzheimer’s Association website (ALZ.org). It is full of information for the public and caregivers.
Hana: We really appreciate your time today to allow us to learn more about Alzheimer’s and neurologists.
Dr. Sonone: You are welcome. I think your project is wonderful and keep up with the good work.