Muriel Lezak, Leading Authority on Brain Injuries, Dies at 94

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A neuropsychologist, she wrote a textbook that became an indispensable usher to describing and evaluating encephalon harm and dysfunction.

Credit...Rosalie Martin

Richard Sandomir

Nov. 1, 2021, 10:58 a.m. ET

Muriel Lezak, a neuropsychologist who wrote a landmark textbook successful the aboriginal days of her subject that became an indispensable usher to the statement and valuation of encephalon injuries and disorders, died connected Oct. 6 successful a representation attraction installation successful Portland, Ore. She was 94.

Her decease was confirmed by her nephew Stephen Lezak.

Dr. Lezak began moving arsenic a objective scientist successful the precocious 1940s. Two decades later, astatine the Veterans Administration Hospital successful Portland, she brought her abiding curiosity astir the transportation betwixt the encephalon and behaviour to her attraction of soldiers who had suffered neurological harm successful World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.

“I was the scientist for neurology, neurosurgery and rehab,” she said successful an oral past interrogation with Oregon Health & Science University successful 2016. “It was similar pig heaven, you know?”

Dr. Lezak became keenly funny successful patients with frontal lobe damage, which affects creativity, reasoning and the quality to subordinate to radical and to program and organize. As she dealt with interns and different aesculapian personnel, she realized that determination was nary publication successful her evolving tract that comprehensively reviewed the large disorders caused by encephalon dysfunction and injury, oregon the techniques, tests and procedures to measure patients.

Her book “Neuropsychological Assessment,” published successful 1976, filled that gap. It besides added tests that she developed to measure encephalon dysfunction, similar seeing however a diligent drew a bicycle, that could supply insights into centrifugal power and perception. She emphasized a flexible approach, adapting procedures to suit an idiosyncratic patient’s problems, a departure from the standardized tests that were past common.

“There had been thing astatine the clip that focused connected the nuts and bolts of evaluation, and she did a truly bully occupation of looking astatine the signifier of a wide scope of assessments earlier making a decision astir a diagnosis,” Kathleen Haaland, a neuropsychologist and prof of psychiatry and behavioral sciences astatine the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, said successful a telephone interview.

Ida Sue Baron, a neuropsychologist and objective prof emeritus of pediatrics astatine George Washington University School of Medicine successful Washington, said successful an email: “The work of this publication brought the tract unneurotic coherently for the archetypal time, by integrating the methods and the subject for those of america who had nary different references, and adjacent for those not successful our assemblage who wished to recognize what neuropsychology was truly each about.”

Dr. Lezak was the sole writer of 2 consequent editions of the publication and 1 of the writers of the 4th and fifth editions; a sixth edition, apt to beryllium published successful 2023, volition beryllium renamed “Lezak’s Neuropsychological Assessment.”

At the V.A. hospital, wherever Dr. Lezak worked until 1985, she started a enactment radical to assistance subject wives header with the altered behaviour of their brain-injured husbands.

“The radical they were joined to were nary longer there; it was idiosyncratic other who was similar, looked beauteous overmuch the same, but was nary longer the idiosyncratic they were capable to emotion and interact with comfortably,” she said successful the oral history.

Muriel Elaine Deutsch was calved connected Aug. 26, 1927, successful Chicago, wherever her father, Lester, was a furrier and her mother, Sylvia (Friedman) Deutsch, was a homemaker who helped with the fur business’s bookkeeping.

Muriel’s fascination with medicine began erstwhile she wondered wherefore her grandmother, who was successful a wheelchair, couldn’t walk. But alternatively of going to a aesculapian schoolhouse — which she didn’t deliberation would admit a pistillate with young children — she pursued psychology.

She graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s grade successful wide studies successful 1947 and a master’s successful quality improvement successful 1949. That aforesaid twelvemonth she joined Sidney Lezak, a lawyer; they soon moved to Portland, wherever helium would service arsenic the United States lawyer successful Oregon from 1961 to 1982.

She received a doctorate successful objective science astatine the University of Portland successful 1960. She aboriginal said that she could not person studied for that grade oregon worked simultaneously arsenic a objective scientist without Mr. Lezak.

“For me, helium was ‘Sweetie,’” she said successful an interrogation successful 2016 with Dr. Haaland for the International Neuropsychological Society. “He was supportive from the get-go astatine a clip erstwhile galore husbands thought the small woman should beryllium location baking cookies and going to the P.T.A. meetings and being nice.”

She added, “As my vocation developed, it was fun; helium wore maine similar a roseate successful his buttonhole.”

Dr. Lezak worked astatine clinics and taught science astatine Portland State College (now University) and the University of Portland from 1949 until she began her 19-year tenure astatine the V.A. infirmary successful 1966. In 1985, she near to thatch astatine the Oregon Health & Science University, wherever she was a prof of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry until 2005. She agelong had a backstage practice, and she continued to spot patients until a fewer years ago.

As aboriginal arsenic 1982, Dr. Lezak sounded an alarm astir the interaction of caput injuries incurred by athletes; successful 1999 and 2001, she was an writer and researcher of studies that recovered cognitive impairment successful amateur and nonrecreational shot players caused by repeatedly utilizing their heads to deed the ball. She and Erik Matser, a co-author of some studies, warned of second-impact syndrome successful which a seemingly harmless stroke to the caput tin origin a superior injury.

“I’d accidental that anybody nether the property of 18 should not beryllium heading,’‘ she told The New York Times successful 2001. ‘’I deliberation there’s immoderate risks you conscionable don’t take, due to the fact that if you bash person harm to the brain, determination volition beryllium immoderate residuals, and they won’t spell away.”

She was besides an adept witnesser successful assorted ineligible cases, including 1 successful 2011 successful which she concluded that Gary Haugen, a twice-convicted murderer who was sitting connected decease enactment successful Oregon and wanted to beryllium executed, had a “delusional upset that makes him incompetent to beryllium executed.” Mr. Haugen said helium hadn’t fixed his support to usage the results of Dr. Lezak’s introspection arsenic portion of his defence lawyers’ effort to artifact his execution.

Dr. Lezak is survived by her daughters, Anne and Miriam Lezak, and 9 grandchildren. Her son, David, died successful 2014. Her hubby died successful 2006.

In her interrogation with Dr. Haaland, Dr. Lezak recalled that earlier her textbook was published, patients with encephalon disorders and dysfunction were fixed a artillery of modular tests by technicians, who gave the results to a psychologist.

“God forbid the scientist ever truly saw the patient!” she said. “My publication emphasized focusing connected the diligent and doing what was due for the patient, not the trial purveyor.”

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