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December 2014

The Future of Stroke TreatmentBringing Evaluation of Behavior Back to Stroke Neurology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 4Department of Cognitive Science, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Neurol. 2014;71(12):1473-1474. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.2343

Acute stroke interventions and stroke rehabilitation are aimed at salvaging or restoring brain function. How do we know if we have accomplished this goal? We examine the patient. One neurological historian asserted, “Most of the modern neurological examination evolved in a short time span, between 1850 and 1914 …”1(p3) This quote is telling; it implies that the examination itself has not changed much since about 1914. For generations of medical students, residents, and other trainees in neuroscience, the neurological examination has achieved almost sacred, untouchable status, while at the same time becoming less important, as diagnostic technologies have become more sophisticated. Indeed, many of the examination’s components have become almost empty ritual. Ask a resident what modern neuroscience has revealed about the mechanisms of, for example, increased tone, neglect, apraxia, and alexia, and how this new knowledge relates to the components of the neurological examination, or how the examination might be updated, and you will likely be met with a blank stare. Ironically, even as cognitive neuroscience has advanced, the interest of neurologists in behavior in the broadest sense, and its underlying physiological characteristics and anatomy, has waned. Thus, current stroke neurologists have largely failed to emphasize the evaluation of the effects of our interventions on brain function.

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