Today, neuropsychologists continue to learn more about the cognitive disorder and how it affects HD patients. However, there are five changes in thinking, or cognitive features, to help understand what it’s like thinking with Huntington’s Disease.
- Slower thinking—fewer brain cells functioning optimally slows down the processing of information; slower thinking can also slow responses.
- Recall is less fluent than recognition—memory loss isn’t a primary cognitive feature of HD. A patient isn’t losing their memories, a patient is having a high degree of difficulty accessing and organizing their thoughts. Their memories are intact, they just don’t have efficient access to them.
- Difficulty switching and maintaining focus—surprises are unsettling and it’s often hard to multitask just as it’s easy to dwell on the same things. Changing topics is challenging.
- Difficulty organizing thoughts and actions—the slowing of thoughts and actions means something that was previously done automatically becomes a tedious, mentally exhausting and conscious effort.
- Inability to wait, or extreme impatience—HD can make a patient appear selfish, demanding and egocentric even if that person is otherwise generous or selfless. It becomes increasingly challenging to control impulses and this cognitive function can portray a demanding and imposing person.
It’s important to remember no person with HD may exhibit all of the cognitive features of Huntington’s Disease at the same time. It is likely that most people with HD will face all of them at some point over the course of the disease