Posts Tagged ‘brain-health’

Dr. Rothbaum on How PTSD Affects Veterans

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic or life-threatening event such as military combat. Thousands of servicemembers and Veterans struggle with PTSD. Often, they resist seeking help because of negative ideas about PTSD or the fear of what others might think. PTSD can affect personal relationships and even destroy families.

Question: Can you have PTSD even though you didn’t see combat?

Rothbaum_BarbaraDr. Rothbaum: Absolutely. PTSD can result from any event in which someone felt that they or someone they care about could be seriously injured or killed. Sexual assault survivors, motor vehicle crash survivors, natural disaster survivors, and many others develop PTSD. Approximately 10% of the US population at any given time has PTSD, and most of this is not from combat.


Question: What treatment options do you offer besides talking to a counselor? Talking has got me no where.

Rothbaum_BarbaraDr. Rothbaum: Good question. We offer what are known as evidence based treatments for PTSD, meaning that controlled studies have shown that these treatments work. “Talking therapy” alone is not one of the treatments that has been shown to work for PTSD. At Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, we are offering Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRE), and others, as well as pharmacotherapy and the combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. We are offering two tiers of treatment: Tier I are the evidenced based treatments, and Tier II are more innovative treatments for folks who don’t receive an adequate response from Tier I treatments. You can learn more about the treatment options available at


Learn more about the Integrated Memory Care ClinicTo make an appointment, call 888-514-5345

Adult Autism: Beyond the School Years

Adult Autism ImageMost people think of high school graduation as an exciting new beginning. But to parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s often a time of confusion, stress and flat-out fear. They must confront the reality and challenges of their kid’s adult autism. Depending on the state, educational supports and services received under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act will disappear. Dr. Cubells, Director of Medical and Adult Services at Emory Autism Center, says “What now?” is one of the most common questions that he hears.

Loss of Supports with Adult Autism

In the U.S., federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensure that children with ASD (and other disabilities) receive school-based supports to help them succeed. Supports may include speech or occupational therapy, a personal aide in the classroom and other interventions. Unfortunately, once school ends, so do these added supports.

Leaving the school system can be the beginning of an arduous journey as families try to navigate their way through the adult world. The loss of support and services for young adults with ASD leaving high school is abrupt, and there are few legal provisions mandating help for adults with disabilities, including adult autism.

The Challenge of Independence

It’s impossible to generalize about the lives of adults with ASD. Obviously, not everyone on the spectrum shares the same challenges or experiences. Some may be able to live independently, and even make important contributions to science, music, and other fields. Others will need daily care throughout their lives. Many will land somewhere in-between and may need to rely on their families or social services in ways that extend well beyond the norm.

Life Skills

If we reflect on what a typical happy and healthy adult life entails, core issues such as a good job, safe place to live and the ability to make choices about our lives are all important. Unfortunately, some of the challenges commonly associated with adult autism can interfere with the life skills needed to establish this kind of life.


Gainful employment tends to be a barrier to independence for people with ASD. According to a 2015 report (compiled by Anne M. Roux, Paul Shattuck, and colleagues at Drexel University), only 32% of young adults with ASD in the U.S. worked for pay within the first two years after leaving high school, and only 30% attended any type of college or other post-secondary education.

Emory Autism Center Adult Services

The Emory Autism Center’s adult programs work to address some of the challenges faced by adults with ASD. Our programs emphasize the inclusion of people with adult autism in their own communities and facilitating positive interactions with neurotypical peers.

Psychopharmacology Clinic

Our medication management clinic currently serves more than 300 adults with ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. There are no medications available that target the “core” manifestations of ASD, such as difficulties in social communication, repetitive behaviors and disabling focus on specific areas of interest. However, we use a “target symptom” approach to identify and treat conditions that commonly occur with adult autism, such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.


myLIFE is an active social skills program where adults with ASD mingle with others of similar age and cognitive level, as well as with neurotypical volunteers and staff. To provide a “real life” atmosphere, much of the myLIFE program occurs in a two-bedroom apartment or community setting (recreational centers or food courts) rather than in the clinic building. This enables participants to cook and share meals together, engage in enjoyable social interactions and relax in a safe and accepting atmosphere. In this setting, adults with ASD can learn valuable skills that will serve them well on the job and in their own communities. The goal of myLIFE is to help adults with ASD achieve a fulfilling life in their own home communities.

View myLife Program

Emory Autism Center is the only university-based center in Georgia that serves people with autism of all ages. For more information, please call us at 404-727-8350.

View Emory Autism Center

Joe Cubells, MD, PhD
Director of Medical and Adult Services
Emory Autism Center

Break the Stigma: Let’s Talk About Mental Illness

1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness. Break the silence and seek treatment for a healthier you from the experts at Emory.The words mental illness often bring specific ideas or images to mind. But, the reality is that mental illness affects far more people than you imagine. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness. Those are friends, family members, colleagues and neighbors, or it could be you.

Many factors can contribute to the development of a mental illness such as our genetics (inherited characteristics), our environment and certain life events. While we all experience fear, anxiety and stress from time to time, mental illness is something more — causing disruption to our everyday lives and lasting longer than a typical emotional reaction.

Know the Signs of Mental Illness

Since there are many types of mental illness and since each person is affected differently, it can be hard to recognize the signs. But here are few things to watch for:

  • Changes in work or school performance
  • Excessive worry, fear or sadness
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Inability to handle daily stress
  • Avoiding family, friends and social situations
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Significant changes in sleeping patterns

A note about treatment resistant depression and anxiety

While depression and anxiety are only a few of many mental health conditions that can be debilitating, they are the most common. These two disorders alone affect more than 16 million adult Americans each year and are the leading cause of disability worldwide. But here’s the good news — they’re treatable. Taking an anti-depressant or going to counseling will ease symptoms for most. But for some, depression and anxiety persist despite these treatments.

Emory’s Treatment Resistant Depression Program was developed to help patients with complex and difficult-to-treat mood disorders. The program has been life changing for many patients who’ve been trying to treat their depression for years. Sadly, because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, far too few will even try to seek help or treatment of any kind.

Do you want to learn more about the Emory Treatment Resistant Depression Program? Yes, I want to learn more now.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Learn More and Join the Fight

June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month. Learn more about brain health and Alzheimer's disease from experts at Emory Brain Health Center.The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t discriminate: We’re all at risk regardless of our education or income level. As we age, our risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias grows. The Emory Brain Health Center team is working to help us better recognize, understand and fight this devastating disease. June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Find out more about the most common form of dementia, and how you can join the fight.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal, degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It affects more than 47 million people around the globe. Alzheimer’s disease leads to problems with:

  • Memory
  • Problem solving
  • Daily tasks
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Vision
  • Understanding time or place
  • Work
  • Socializing
  • Decision-making
  • Mood or personality

Can Anything Stop or Slow Alzheimer’s Disease?

Right now, there is no prevention, cure or proven method to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. However, certain medicines can improve or slow down symptoms temporarily. And, these lifestyle practices may delay its onset:

  • Regular exercise
  • Mental stimulation
    A healthy, balanced diet

How Can You Join the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease?

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks people around the world to “go purple” by finding a way to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. There are many ways to help – big and small:

  • Show support by wearing purple throughout the month of June
  • Learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias
  • Start conversations in your community to raise brain health awareness
  • Donate to Alzheimer’s research
  • Consider becoming a volunteer for a clinical trial.

Emory researchers work diligently to uncover the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and to improve treatment options by leading clinical trials. Thanks to volunteers from our community both with and without Alzheimer’s disease, we’re making headway and accelerating Emory’s efforts to find a cure. Would you like to learn more about becoming a volunteer in a clinical trial? Yes, I’d like to learn more now.

You can also make a contribution to the Emory Brain Health Center in support of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Yes, I’d like to make a contribution now.

What Is the Emory Brain Health Center?

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, the Emory Brain Health Center treats a wide range of conditions that affect the brain, such as:

Would you like to learn more about the Emory Brain Health Center? Yes, I’d like to learn more now.


Low Back Pain – Types, Treatments & More

back-pain250x250As many of us know, back pain is a common and annoying problem. A majority of adults will have at least one episode of back pain in their life – “throwing out” of the back. Thankfully, in a majority of cases, this improves with a little TLC and time. Unfortunately with some patients, the back pain can become a burden, and potentially life-changing.

The back is a unique area of our body. It is the joining of the upper body with the pelvis and legs, and has stresses and strains that can be more than the back was ‘designed’ for. Additionally, many of us have low back problems that run in the family – and although the genetics have not been formally elicited, these patients can have a particular susceptibility to injury. Injury is another cause of back pain, as is arthritis associated with overuse and old age. Understanding the nature of your back pain, and possibly what may have caused it is sometimes the first step in managing and treating the condition.


The symptoms of back pain are fairly straightforward – in fact, if you are reading this you most likely can identify! The location of the pain is important, as back pain in general can refer to any aspect of the back. Typical ‘back pain’ usually refers to lower back pain in the small of one’s back, just above the buttocks. The type of pain can range from a severe pain to a dull ache. It often gets worse or better depending on activity or exercise. It is important to get a sense of the possible cause (or what you were doing when it started), as well as understanding and communicating with your physician if the pain has changed, and how it has changed. Lastly, back pain can be an isolated event that improves with time (e.g.: six weeks), or episodic, pain that tends to recur perhaps once or several times per year. Occasionally, back pain doesn’t resolve (‘chronic back pain’) and these types of patients are understandably the most frustrated.

When back pain first appears, knowing your body is as important as knowing the history of the pain. Ask yourself the following questions before preparing to see your physician

  • Is it just pain in the back?
  • Where in your back?
  • What makes this pain better or worse?
  • Does the pain travel down your legs and when does this occur?
  • Is there numbness, pins or needles, or weakness in your legs and/or feet?
  • Are there unusual symptoms such as changes in your bowel or bladder?

Back pain from moving a sofa without symptoms in your legs that immediately starts to improve with a change in activity (such as stopping) is often very reassuring. On the other end of the spectrum, back pain that starts with changes in your bowel or bladder is an emergency. Initial treatment may be reduced activity and perhaps anti-inflammatory medications, with other types of symptoms requiring more immediate diagnosis and/or treatment. Evaluation in your local emergency department for significant pain, new numbness or weakness of the bowel and bladder should be considered immediately if these or other worrisome symptoms appear.

Treatment options

General treatment and expectations vary from patient to patient, and physician to physician. After evaluation by a physician, the initial plan of care often includes reduced or altered activity, anti-inflammatory, physical therapy or other modalities including, but not limited to ice, heat or chiropractic. Each care plan is designed by your physician with you in mind, varying from patient to patient. Occasionally, narcotic pain medications or muscle relaxants can help with the initial pain, and a short course of steroids may be prescribed. Additionally, for persistent pain, epidural steroid injections or other more invasive pain procedures can be considered after evaluation by a spinal surgeon. If the pain persists, imaging such as an x-ray or MRI may be considered. It is important to have your physician help interpret the results of your MRI with you; different findings have different meanings in different patients. It can be worrisome to have results that might state ‘multiple disk herniations’ and correlating your symptoms and physical exam to the imaging results carries significantly more weight and importance than the reading alone.

While most low back pain resolves with time, patients may require surgical consideration. Only a spinal surgeon will be able to outline whether you are a surgical candidate, and what option(s) you might have. Spinal surgery has evolved significantly in the last decade to become less invasive and more technologically savvy in some cases. Laser surgery, endoscopic surgery and ‘percutaneous’ surgery (with very small incisions) are all considered as options by your surgeon, along with more traditional, time-tested approaches to surgical intervention. It is important to recognize not all patients are surgical candidates, nor will all surgical patients have resolution of their symptoms.

Regardless of the cause, diagnosis and treatment, patients with low back pain have hope and reassurance there are many options available. Your primary care physician is the best resource for the initial diagnosis and management of back pain. If surgical consideration is needed, the spine specialists at Emory are available for consultation.

Do you have more questions about your back pain or need help selecting a physician?


About Dr. Mason

mason-alexander-michaelDr. Mason offers a comprehensive and complete neurosurgery line with a patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach. He specializes in conservative case management and forward-thinking evidence-based treatments. His research interests include cerebrovascular disease and treatment, stroke outcomes and atypical variants of aneurysms, such as mycotic- and pseudo-aneurysms. Dolichoectasia of the cerebral vasculature is also of particular interest.

Dr. Mason is a Diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons. He is an active member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). He has been an invited contributing editor of World Neurosurgery and Neurosurgery.

A Look at the Emory Brain Health Center

More than 42 million people in the United States are fighting brain diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, stroke, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, chronic neurologic and psychiatric conditions are predicted to be the greatest health issue facing our aging population in the coming years.

To learn more about the Emory Brain Health Center and hear directly from patients about the care they received, please watch this video.


Emory supports World Stroke Day

Photo credit: Andrea Briscoe,

Photo credit: Andrea Briscoe,

World Stroke Day is observed on October 29 to raise awareness of the prevention and treatment of stroke in an effort to combat the high rates of the condition.

Emory Healthcare’s stroke program is dedicated to this prevention effort and members of the team recently joined Georgia Governor Nathan Deal as he signed a proclamation announcing October 29 as Stroke Awareness Day in the state.

Among the group on hand at the signing was Fadi Nahab, MD, medical director for the stroke program at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown, Aaron Anderson, MD, vascular neurologist, and Jemma Brown, RN, MSN, Stroke Program Coordinator at Emory University Hospital Midtown .

Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. Yet 80% of strokes are preventable. If you’d like to learn about the management of stroke risk factors, take this personal stroke risk assessment.

For more information about Emory’s Comprehensive stroke center: