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What’s A Clinical Neuropsychiatrist? Meet The Only One In The State

November 08, 2017

Long before he entered medical school, Dr. Joe Trettel says he was fascinated by the brain, and in particular, its ability to produce cognition and behavior.

“Very early on I developed a passion and curiosity that lead me to become a basic neuroscientist, trying to understand the connection between the brain, behavior and cognition, and ultimately how I could use this to help people,” says Dr. Trettel.

Trettel, recently named Medical Director of Neuropsychiatry at the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute, is the only clinical neuropsychiatrist practicing in Connecticut. Neuropsychiatry merges the specialties of psychiatry and neurology and treats behavioral difficulties associated with a wide range of neurological conditions including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Although the specialty’s origins date to the mid-19th-century and the study of “hysteria,” or conversion disorder, psychiatry’s adoption of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory seems to have created a philosophical divide between psychiatry and neurology that lasted more than a century, Trettel says.

“At the time there were behaviors that they simply [didn’t have the knowledge to] localize in the brain, for example areas or networks responsible for a particular emotion,” Trettel says.

Neuropsychiatry was officially certified as a subspecialty in 2006 and is recognized as a valuable element of multidisciplinary neurological care worldwide. 

“A lot of the consequences of neurologic disease – whether it’s stroke, traumatic brain injury or MS — have physical consequences that we can observe, such as paralysis for example. However, there are many other consequences that are equally as disabling that we don’t see yet families struggle with, such as impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, or memory loss.  These are behavioral conditions a neuropsychiatrist can address through medication, psychotherapy and other therapeutic modalities,” Trettel says.

Dr. Mark Alberts, physician-in-chief of the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute, says the addition of Dr. Trettel allows for better care coordination for patients within the institute.

“Dr. Trettel brings a very unique combination of academic and clinical training to the Ayer Neuroscience Institute,” says Alberts.  “Treating patients with complex neurologic disorders, whether they have Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, or a movement disorder, requires a multi-disciplinary care team. Dr. Trettel’ s background, training and expertise are a perfect fit.”

Click here to learn more about the Ayer Neuroscience Institute.