Muriel Lezak, a pioneer in the field of neuropsychology who authored the leading text, on the evaluation of brain injury and brain disorders recently passed away.
Dr. Lezak combined a unique combination of neuroscientific and clinical perspectives that informed the entire psychological and medical community on the lifelong effects that a traumatic brain injury can have on an individual.
According to the Oregonian, an Oregon newspaper in Dr. Lezak’s home state:
“Lezak innovated and codified best practices in treating patients with brain injuries, but she also recognized that figuring out these injuries wasn’t a straightforward medical undertaking. She found that support groups not only helped family members of those suffering from neurological disorders, they aided her understanding of what was going on with her patients.”
“In a funny way,” she said, “that’s how I really learned what happens with brain injury -- listening to the families.”
Most, if not all clinicians recognize her book “Neuropsychological Assessment” now in its Fifth Edition, as the bible in the assessment of brain injury and you would be hard pressed to look at any neuropsychologist’s library and not find this text. For the past 40 years, this has been the go to text in the field of neuropsychology. The next edition will be entitled, Lezak’s, Neuropsychological Assessment.
I fondly remember my conversations with Dr. Lezak about the need to be flexible in assessing the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional consequences of brain trauma. As a young attorney prosecuting cases of traumatic brain injury, she was quick to remind me that neuropsychologists are not “testing” individuals, they are performing an assessment of their functions.
The difference is crucial because the best “test” for a brain injury is life itself and the neuropsychological assessment battery merely provides some tools to aid the neuropsychologist in their assessment.
She emphasized the need for flexible approach to provide insight into a survivor’s unique impairments.
Dr. Lezak sounded the alarm on the dangers of repetitive head trauma in amateur and professional sports and warned on the dangers of heading a soccer ball telling the New York Times, “I think there’s some risks you just don’t take, because if you do have damage to the brain, there will be some residuals, and they won’t go away.
Her insistence that the field of neuropsychology focus on the needs of the patient is her legacy to all who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. She will be missed by professionals and patients