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Changes in Thinking (Cognition)

Changes in Thinking

 Huntington's disease can affect the way a person processes new information, learns and remembers new information, organizes and problem solves, focus attention and accurately understand their environment. These changes will not happen at the same time and some people with HD may not experience these changes at all. However, they are commonly experienced over the course of the disease. 

Slower thinkingwith fewer brain cells working at their best, it takes longer to process to information. As a result, the person with HD may be slower to respond and react.  

Harder to remember things, but the memories are still there. When brain cells are damaged, the person with HD has a harder time accessing and organizing their thoughts. Their memories are intact, they just don’t have efficient access to them. 

Difficulty with focus – someone with HD may have trouble staying focused on something and they also may have trouble switching their focus to something new. Surprises are unsettling, it’s often hard to multitask; it’s hard to change topics; and easy to stay stuck on the same things.  

Difficulty organizing thoughts and actions—the slowing of thoughts means something that used to be done without thinking about it, now takes a lot of mental effort.    

Unable to wait, or extreme impatience—a person with HD can appear selfish, demanding, and egocentric even if that person is usually generous or selfless. The damage to the brain cells makes it increasingly challenging to control impulses and can make a person seem demanding. 

Facial Expressions - One of the earliest symptoms of HD is not being able to correctly read someone’s facial expression. For instance, someone might think someone is scared when they are happy or that someone is sad when they look angry.  Losing the ability to accurately understand non-verbal cues can harm relationships.