My life in research — Dr Catherine Hurt

I have always been interested in the relationship between the body and the brain. After graduating in Psychology from the University of Manchester, I worked on an international research project testing the effectiveness of a drug for memory problems in Parkinson’s.

I found the project very interesting from a research perspective — Parkinson’s is a very diverse condition with so many varying symptoms and challenges. It certainly fits with my interest in the links between the brain and the body.

I also realised that public awareness of Parkinson’s isn’t always what it should be, even though the condition has profound effects on patients and those around them.

After finishing my PhD I was lucky enough to complete my post-doctoral work with Professor Richard Brown at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. I worked on his national study exploring mood states in Parkinson’s. I then went onto my own research projects at City University London.

I met some inspiring people who had remarkable resilience and optimism. Much of my decision to continue research in Parkinson’s came from my enjoyment of working with these people, and a desire to try and help make life a little bit easier.

My research focuses on how people think about their condition and how this affects what they do and how they feel. I find it fascinating that people can have the same condition, with very similar symptoms, but think about them in very different ways.

One of my current projects is about supporting people with Parkinson’s to seek help for non-motor symptoms. The research so far has identified that many people don’t realise that non-motor symptoms are related to Parkinson’s, or they think that treatments aren’t available.

We are developing an online programme to empower people with Parkinson’s to ask for help with problematic symptoms.

My research won’t find a cure for Parkinson’s but I hope that it will help to improve the lives of people affected by Parkinson’s.

I really want to give something back to a group of people who have always been so generous with their time and experiences.

Dr Catherine Hurt is Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at City University London. Her PhD work at the University of Manchester focused on perceptions of illness and helpseeking behaviour in people with memory problems. She then conducted post-doctoral work at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, before joining City University London as a Lecturer in Health Psychology in 2012. Her main interest is in the coping, quality of life and wellbeing of people with neurodegenerative conditions.