Memory and Cognitive Disorders
Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program endeavors to provide the highest quality care for people with disorders of cognition, perform cutting edge research to find the cause and treatment for disorders of cognition, and educate providers, patients, and their families about the disorders that affect cognition.
The clinical arm of the Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program evaluates and treats people with disorders of cognition. These disorders often affect memory, but can also cause problems with talking, navigating our world or regulating behavior. Many disorders of the brain such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease can affect cognition, but some disorders primarily affect cognition. These include Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. In addition, there are normal changes of cognition with aging and stages of mild abnormal cognitive dysfunction such as mild cognitive impairment. Our specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating all of these conditions.
We have several venues where we see our patients:
Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic
Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic Brochure
The Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation of people with concerns about their memory and thinking in an expert and caring atmosphere. We believe that a multidisciplinary and comprehensive evaluation is necessary for appropriate diagnosis. The purpose of this comprehensive evaluation is to determine the cause or causes of the patient's symptoms and to recommend treatment.
What to expect:
As part of a visit to our clinic, a patient will be seen by a cognitive and behavioral neurologist and a neuropsychologist. Depending on staffing, we may also have the patient see a social worker or nurse specialist as part of the day. The patient may have laboratory testing and/or brain imaging during their visit. This extensive initial evaluation accomplishes in one day what may take two or three visits outside of a comprehensive clinic.
The person being seen must be accompanied by someone familiar with them and their memory concerns. In addition, the patient should bring, or have the patient's doctor send, records of any prior evaluation for memory problems including the actual films (or CD-ROM containing the images) of any prior brain imaging. You can come prepared for clinic by completing the Neurology-New Patient Questionnaire and bringing it with you.
If we feel that further testing is needed, the patient may need to return on a separate day for a brain scan, blood work and/or follow up memory testing. After the initial evaluation and follow up testing, the clinicians involved will discuss all the information about each patient at our Consensus Conference. Following this conference, the clinicians discuss their findings with the patient and the family at a return visit to our clinic where diagnosis, recommendations and treatment options are discussed.
During a patient's visit with us, he or she may have medical students and residents participate in their care. We also have ongoing research programs in which the patient may be invited to participate. No one will ever be required to participate in any research and a patient's care will not be affected by this decision.
Patients should arrive 30 minutes early for their first appointment. If the patient is unable to arrive within 20 minutes of the appointment time we may not be able to see the person the same day.
Patients will have follow up visits with our neuropsychologists and/or social worker. After each visit, a written report is sent to the primary care physician and/or referring physician.
Claire Flaherty-Craig, Ph.D.
Dr. Flaherty-Craig pursues research interests in neurodevelopmental disorders among pediatric cancer survivors, pediatric and adult epilepsy, pediatric and adult trauma patients and dementia in association with neurodegenerative disorders including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Myotonic Dystrophy, and Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration. She has been affiliated with the Department of Neurology since 1992. Her experience has included 8 years as a team member of the in-patient adult neurorehabilitation unit, where she gained expertise with assessment and intervention approaches to optimize functioning following acquired disorders of cognition and affect.
Paul Eslinger, Ph.D.
Dr. Eslinger conducts cognitive and neuroimaging investigation in several areas including: aging and Alzheimer’s disease, Frontotemporal dementias, functional brain imaging of the development and maturation of executive functions and decision-making capabilities in children and adolescents, recovery from traumatic brain injury from sports and other injuries, as well as functional brain imaging of social cognition and social emotions. Studies are geared toward elucidating the neural mechanisms of cognition and emotion, the effects of pathophysiology on cognitive and emotional systems, and effects of treatment on brain reorganization and recovery of function.
Daymond Wagner, M.A.
Daymond is one of our neuropsychology technicians. He is also the study coordinator and neuropsychology technician for our ongoing studies of cognitive function and structural markers in Parkinson’s disease. He has an interest in right hemisphere dysfunction.
Travis Haines, B.S., M.A.
Travis is one of our neuropsychology technicians. Travis has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with Honors in Crime, Law and Justice. His undergraduate honors thesis was on gender differences in business crime. He finished his Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Penn State Harrisburg. He works with Dr. Flaherty-Craig for the majority of his time here, but also spends Friday afternoons in our neurosurgery department.
Brynn Welch, LPN
Brynn Welch is a licensed practical nurse who has been practicing for 13 years. She joined the Department of Neurology in January, 2009 and works with the Memory and Cognitive Disorders and Epilepsy Clinics. She has extensive experience working with patients and families/caregivers of patients with chronic neurologic diseases that affect cognition and cause seizures. This extensive experience has allowed her be an integral part of the team and provides expert and compassionate care.
Sonya Diggs, LPN
Sonya Diggs is a licensed practical nurse who works with the Memory and Cognitive Disorders, Neuropsychology and Epilepsy Clinics. Sonya has extensive experience working with patients with memory and cognitive dysfunction and their families and caregivers.
Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program conducts research that involves patients directly, called clinical research, and that does not involve patients, called basic science research. Both forms of research have two goals:
- To help understand how the brain works
- To help understand what causes a disease and how to treat it.
Some current research includes:
Memory and Aging Study
The Memory and Aging Study is a long-term study of the relationship between aging and memory loss. Its main goal is to identify early indicators of problems with memory. Secondary goals include developing novel and non-invasive approaches to study changes in memory function; identifying genetic factors that affect rate of progression in patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer's disease; and validating an MRI technique for diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment and/or Alzheimer's disease.
The study will involve genetic, imaging, psychiatric, and neuropsychological investigation of memory loss during aging. We will do this with pencil-and-paper questionnaires about your memory, mood, and health history; a blood sample for genetic analysis; and various MRI scans.
Additionally, the MRI scans and a smell identification test will be used to investigate problems with sense of smell in early Alzheimer's disease.
You may be eligible to participate in the study if you:
- are between the ages of 45 and above
- have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment
- have no history of stroke, head injury or other neurologic or psychiatric disorder
- do not have a pacemaker or other metal object in your body
- have no conditions that affect your sense of smell
- have not had surgery for a brain aneurysm
- are not claustrophobic
- do not smoke
- are not pregnant
The study also needs healthy volunteers without symptoms of cognitive impairment or memory problems.
For information, contact Megha Vasavada at 717-531-5858 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Validating the Montreal Cognitive Assessment for the Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease
This is a longitudinal study sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation. We are investigating whether a short paper and pencil test can determine changes in memory and thinking in individuals with Parkinson's disease. This study requires two visits per year for three years.
You may be eligible to participate if you:
- Are at least 65 years old
- Have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease
- Have color vision
- Have a friend or family member who can answer questions about you.
For information, contact Lori Grimland at 717-531-0003 x287670
Other ongoing research projects include:
Functional brain imaging resources for childhood cancer survivors
For more information, contact Shadi Farzin-Gohar, M.D., at 717- 531-6012 or Mary Hughes at 717- 531-6069.
Developmental functional brain imaging of cognition and emotion
For more information, contact Mary Hughes at 717-531-6069.
Functional brain imaging of memory and language for epilepsy surgery
For more information, contact Mary Hughes at 717-531-6069.
Metacognitive strategies and concept mapping as learning aides in medical students
For more information, contact Glenda Shoop in the Office of Medical Education at 717-531-6917.
Staff in the Penn state Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Center also are collaborating with groups on the following studies:
- Social cognition in aging and Frontotemporal Dementia
- Characterization of cognitive-behavioral change in Frontotemporal Dementia
- Structural MRI markers in Parkinson's disease progression
- CTSI Smart Spaces Initiative: "Effects of bright light treatment on sleep and depression of elders in long term care"
To become a new patient at the Penn State Hershey Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic, please call 717-531-4191. For toll free scheduling call 1-800-292-3332 and select option 1- then option 3 for Neurology.
Directions to the clinic:
The Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is located in Hershey, within Derry Township, Dauphin County, 12 miles east of Harrisburg on Route 322. The Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic is located in our new East Campus outpatient building: Online directions to our clinic.
To get to the Penn State Hershey Medical Center:
If you are traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike: Use exit 266 to route 72 north to route 322 west.
If you are traveling on Route 81, follow signs for Hershey/Route 322
If you are traveling on Route 283, follow 283 west and take the Hershey/Elizabethtown Exit to Route 743 to Route 322 west.
If you are traveling on Route 83, follow signs to Hershey/Route 322 east.
Once you reach the traffic light at the main entrance of the Hershey Medical Center, you will travel 322 East to the 2nd traffic light (Cherry Drive). Turn right onto Cherry Drive. Continue straight to the first road on right (Hope Drive). Continue straight on Hope Drive to first stop sign, go straight and take the first driveway to the left. Follow the road around to the front of the new East Health Campus to the parking lot. Follow signs to Building B. Please check in with the front desk upon arrival.
If you need further directions please call our Contact Center at 1-800-243-1455 (24 hrs/7 days a week).
In general, the Alzheimer's Association maintains the most up to date list of support groups in your area and is the best place to find out about the support groups in your area. In addition, we recommend that all caregivers for people with dementia that are seen in our clinic attend a caregiver training seminar. Again, the Alzheimer's association maintains a list of training seminars in our area.
We also have a caregiver support group for patients with one of the frontotemporal Dementias. This meets on the third Thursday of each month, at 6:00 p.m., in Room 1019 of our East Campus Building. For information about the support group, contact Mark Allshouse, B.A. at 717-586-8351 or via email at email@example.com
Alzheimer's Association National Chapter 800-272-3900
Greater Pennsylvania Chapter 717-651-5020
The Alzheimer's Association is the premier resource for information about Alzheimer's disease associated dementias and local resources for support for patients, caregivers, and families.
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
The ADEAR Center site provides current, comprehensive Alzheimer's disease information and resources from the U.S. Government's National Institute on Aging (NIA).
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Eldercare Locator 800-677-1116
Pennsylvania Department of Aging
Local Aging Organizations:
Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging 717-780-6130 or 800-328-0058
Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging 717-273-9262
Cumberland County Office of Aging and Community Services 717-240-6110 or 888- 697-0371
Lancaster County Office of Aging 717-299-7979 or 800-801-3070
National Alliance for Caregiving
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) is a non-profit coalition created to support family caregivers and the professionals who serve them. This web site provides caregiving tips, publications, resources, a list of events, and more.
National Family Caregivers Association
The NFCA exists to support family caregivers and to speak out publicly for caregivers' needs. The NFCA espouses a philosophy of self-advocacy and self-care that is predicated on the belief that caregivers who choose to take charge of their lives, and see caregiving as but one of its facets, are in a position to be happier and healthier individuals.
Medicare Caregiver Information
Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy 800-457-4777
The Association for Frontotemporal Dementias 866-507-7222
FRONTIER (Frontotemporal Dementia Research Group)
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy Body Dementia Association 800-539-9767
Primary Progressive Aphasia/Progressive Non Fluent Aphasia/Semantic Dementia
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration 866-507-7222
National Aphasia Association 800-922-4622
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy 866-507-7222
Alzheimer's Association National Chapter 800-272-3900
Greater Pennsylvania Chapter 717- 651-5020
American Stroke Association 888-478-7653
National Aphasia Association 800-922-4622
What is it?
Neuropsychological tests measure memory, concentration, visual-spatial, problem solving, counting, and language skills.
Who needs this procedure?
Neuropsychological testing is performed to diagnose a brain disorder or disease, to monitor the progress of someone who is being treated for these types of conditions, or to screen for developmental delays or learning disorders in children. For example, people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or stroke, or are exhibiting signs of dementia, such as possible Alzheimer’s disease, are given standardized neuropsychological tests to evaluate their mental abilities.
How do I prepare for this procedure?
There are no special preparations for this test. The medical professional administering the test, however, should explain the procedure and the purpose of the test clearly. Unless the test is court ordered, you will be asked to sign a consent form.
How is this procedure performed?
Neuropsychological tests are administered by a neuropsychologist, a specialist trained in the relationship between the brain and mental functions such as memory, language, and perception. He or she will review your medical history, specifically noting any traumatic head injury or neurological symptoms. Neuropsychological tests are standardized tests. Some are administered in written form, which means you will read a question or look at a picture and then select a response. Other tests are administered orally, which means you will be asked to respond to a question or perform a skill, such as putting items in a certain order. In this case, the neuropsychologist will record your responses. Examples of these types of tests include the Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt test, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Benton Serial Digit Learning Test, Hopkins Verbal Learning Test, California Verbal Learning Test, Knox Cube Test, and the Wechsler Memory Scale. Results are analyzed, taking into account the patient’s age and developmental stage. The neuropsychologist also studies emotional responses and other aspects of a patient’s mental state so treatment for depression or other mental conditions can be pursued.
What can I expect after the procedure?
There are no side effects to this procedure. Your doctor will inform you of the results and prescribe appropriate treatment.