Meet Dr. John HartBehavioral and Cognitive Neurologist in Dallas
John Hart, M.D., isn’t a typical neurologist treating multiple sclerosis (MS). As one of just a few behavioral and cognitive neurologists in the Dallas area, he specializes in cognitive changes related to MS, such as issues with memory, information processing, and word finding.
Because MS causes damage to the central nervous system (made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves), patients can experience a variety of symptoms, many of which are physical, such as blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, and extreme fatigue.
Treatments for the physical symptoms of MS have improved greatly and, as a result, MS patients are living longer. However, these patients are also more likely to experience the cognitive problems that can occur in the progression of the disease. That’s where Dr. Hart comes in.
“When I meet patients for the first time, it’s important that I understand the kinds of cognitive problems they’re having, what their daily life is like, and what their goal is from treatment,” he says.
“It’s not the same for everyone; we have to look at the risk/benefit ratio because these medications have side effects. But the more you can tell me about your goals – keeping your job, remembering to pick up your child from school, being able to perform daily tasks – the better equipped I will be to help.”
As part of a multidisciplinary team of MS experts at UT Southwestern, Dr. Hart works with patients and identify the best therapies to treat cognitive deficits.
After years of research, cognitive deficits in MS have been shown to be related to dopamine imbalance in key areas of the brain. Prescribing medication that increases dopamine in those areas has proved a successful treatment for many MS patients.
Dr. Hart is currently leading a study to test a device that sends electrical stimulation to the dopamine-producing brain regions affected by MS. The function of this device is similar to medication therapy but is much more targeted. So far, many patients in the study have seen improvements retrieving words and memories.
“I’m excited about this study, and I’m hopeful overall for MS patients with cognitive deficits,” he says. “We already have several options for treatments, more than I ever could have imagined, and the research is very promising.”