BRAIN Neuroethics Grant Enables Deep Dive into Personality in Parkinson’s

$1.6M to study perceptions of personality before and after DBS

A Cleveland Clinic neuropsychologist is the recipient of a funding award in the first wave of neuroethics grants issued by the National Institute of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Technologies® (BRAIN) Initiative.

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Cynthia Kubu, PhD, will receive $1.6 million over four years to study perceptions of personality in the context of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and its treatment with deep brain stimulation (DBS). Objectives of the project include:

  • Identifying whether existing measures capture valued personality characteristics
  • Determining if PD results in changes in patients’ perceived personality
  • Evaluating concordance between patients’ and their family members’ ratings of personality change
  • Learning whether DBS results in changes in individually meaningful personality characteristics

“We hypothesize that patients will report changes to personality associated with Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Kubu, who holds appointments in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Neurological Restoration, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, and Center for Ethics, Humanities and Spiritual Care. “And we suspect that deep brain stimulation will result in a return to pre-illness personality and allow a patient to be his or her more authentic self.”

Dr. Kubu and her Cleveland Clinic colleagues believe the data to be collected on perspectives around personality will have implications for the development of personality measures that mirror patients’ values, will help shape the informed consent process for DBS and may inform public and academic discussions of identity and autonomy in the context of DBS.

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“As medicine moves forward with technologies that allow us to treat patients in new ways in the field of neuroscience, we must have a firm understanding of the ethics surrounding these advances,” says Paul Ford, PhD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s NeuroEthics Program and Interim Chair of the Department of Bioethics. “We are thankful the BRAIN Initiative sees the importance of exploring ethical considerations in neuroscience and hope our contributions can help move the field forward.”