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Catherine Potok
Undergraduate Student
Department of Biology
Kean University
Headaches, Mood Swings, and Dropping Things: Differential Diagnosis of a Nervous System Disorder

This interrupted case study walks students through the stages of determining a diagnosis for a neural condition/disease in a 62-year-old female. The case includes the medical history, presenting signs and symptoms, pre-diagnoses, evaluation/observations, testing, analysis of the results from testing, narrowing the differential diagnosis, and the final diagnosis. In order to successfully complete the case, students will need to learn about the epidemiology, signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, diagnostic testing, and results of testing of several neural conditions/diseases including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Guillian-Barre syndrome, Huntington’s disease, hydrocephalus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, primary amebic meningoencephalitis, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Students will create a table encompassing the characteristics of these diseases, completing it with the information provided in each stage to narrow down the diagnostic possibilities until the final diagnosis. By the end of the activity, students will understand that overlapping characteristics among these neural conditions/diseases increases the difficulty of reaching a final diagnosis. This case should be beneficial for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a future career in the allied health professions.