Psychology professor receives funding for pioneering project into motor neuron disease

Professor Sharon Abrahams receives funding from MND Scotland to research the mental capacity of MND patients to make treatment decisions

Sharon Abrahams

Professor Sharon Abrahams will lead a team at the University of Edinburgh to determine if the ability to make decisions is affected in some people with motor neuron disease (MND), particularly when making important decisions about their medical treatment and care.

“Planning and decision-making are important for all people and particularly if you have been diagnosed with MND. This study will investigate if some people with MND have difficulties in making decisions for themselves, known as mental capacity, specifically about their own medical treatment.” – Professor Sharon Abrahams

Changes in thinking and behaviour

It is believed that, in addition to problems with movement, half of people with MND have some degree of change in their thinking and behaviour.

This may involve difficulties with organising themselves, solving problems, finding words, spelling, paying attention, and difficulties when having to interact with other people. These problems are associated with damage to specific parts of the brain, particularly the frontal lobes.

Understanding decision-making capacity

In this study, Professor Abrahams and her team will interview 60 people with MND to determine whether they can make decisions about specific treatments and their care. This might include decisions over whether to get a feeding tube to help with eating, or to receive ventilation to help with breathing.

A basis for future guidelines

They will also look at types of support that can be given to help people in the decision-making process, such as giving information in a simple, straight-forward way.

We will look at why they may have these difficulties and if there are ways we can support them through this decision making process. We thank MND Scotland and all their supporters for funding this project.

Professor Sharon Abrahams

Ultimately, the results will provide the basis for future guidelines for clinicians, people with MND and their families.


MND Scotland

Related links

Psychology at the University of Edinburgh