As neurologic illnesses and conditions progress, related psychiatric symptoms often develop. As a neuropsychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Katherine Brownlowe, MD, treats the mental disorders attributed to diseases of the nervous system and actively partners with other specialists within the Neurological Institute – as well as patients and their caregivers – to support earlier diagnosis and care.

Dr. Brownlowe, who is an assistant professor – clinical at the College of Medicine, treats a full spectrum of patients with neurological conditions that result in cognitive, behavioral and emotional changes. She leads Ohio State’s Division of Neurobehavioral Health and is also inpatient medical director for its Harding Hospital, a 91-bed facility offering comprehensive mental health programs for adolescents, adults and older adults.

Benefits extend to a broad patient population

“Nearly every neurologic condition has potential to create mental health challenges,” Dr. Brownlowe says. This includes patients with traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, movement disorders, dementia, Alzheimer’s and more. “While we are treating the physical challenges of any neurologic illness, it’s equally important to address the less visible issues, including changes in thoughts, feelings and behavior,” she explains.

These mental health challenges can range from mild to severe, but, as Dr. Brownlowe says, “It is often difficult for patients or those closest to them to identify changes, because they can happen gradually, and families aren’t equipped to see subtle shifts. That’s why engaging a neuropsychiatrist is so important – the sooner we can recognize and start treatment of psychiatric illness, the better.”

Facilitating diagnosis

Ohio State is one of the first medical centers in the country to combine five neurologic specialties into a single, integrated program for seamless management of patient care. As such, the Neurological Institute provides easier access to the kind of collaboration Dr. Brownlowe provides.

“My inclusion in neurology didactics and the availability of neuropsychiatry as a resident rotation option also helps us train future physicians to actively screen their patients for possible mental health issues,” Dr. Brownlowe says. “My goal is to reach across levels of care anywhere within the system. When I can share my neuropsychiatry with those outside the field, I have the greatest potential to impact the biggest number of people.”

She also lends her expertise to patient and caregiver education. “When you don’t know what to look for, you’ll never see it,” she says. “The most important first step is to raise awareness of potential challenges, such as depression, withdrawal, new behavior, anger, paranoia or even hallucination. People are empowered when they have more knowledge of what they may face. It helps them ‘see around the corner’ and prepare for the future. This is important through any disease progression, but particularly with regard to end-of-life care.”

Innovative treatment options

Any neurology patients who do develop psychiatric symptoms can access a broad range of breakthrough therapy options at Ohio State. This includes the region’s only deep brain stimulation program, which delivers tiny electrical impulses to the brain to calm abnormal signals.

Beyond her collaborative effort with neurology, Dr. Brownlowe actively treats patients via in- or outpatient psychiatry, med-surge, the Emergency Department or other referrals. She is one of only a few neuropsychiatrists in the region, and as such, sees patients from many different states.

For more information about her neuropsychiatry clinic, you can contact Dr. Brownlowe via email at Katherine.Brownlowe@osuwmc. You can also refer to the medical center’s Physician Referral Guide or call 614-293-6900 to initiate a patient referral.

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