Stone Oak Neuropsychologist Diagnoses Brain Disorders to Facilitate Best Treatments
By Amy Morgan
The brain is a fascinating and mysterious part of the body. Without conscious thought or effort, the brain regulates breathing, heartbeat, tells us when we are hungry – until it doesn’t. Millions of people experiencing neurological disorders may suddenly find themselves unable to do the things they normally took for granted.
Understanding how the brain works and how neurological disorders can change a person’s thinking, feeling and personality has been the life work of Janyna M. Mercado, Ph.D., founder of the Neuropsychological Institute of San Antonio (NIOSA) located in Stone Oak Physicians Plaza Building 1 adjacent to North Central Baptist Hospital. Dr. Mercado spent 17 years on staff and faculty at Brook Army Medical Center (BAMC) assisting severely wounded active-duty military and veteran service members before opening a private practice in 2005. Seeing the men and women who served in the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom campaigns grew her passion to help those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families.
Dr. Mercado was born in Puerto Rico where her father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and earned a Doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from Texas Women’s University, followed by a two-year fellowship in Neuropsychology at the Audie L. Murphy Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in San Antonio. The mother of two teenage sons, the Stone Oak resident is married to Michael Robare, owner of Robare Custom Homes. Dr. Mercado was recently included in the Inspiring Woman of San Antonio Book.
A skilled diagnostician, Dr. Mercado conducts highly specific assessments to help patients with neurological disorders understand their cognitive status, limitations and impairments. “I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of hours with families helping them learn how to live with a person’s abilities as they are now. Correct diagnosis and education are critical to helping the family be supportive,” Dr. Mercado said.
This spring, Dr. Mercado’s private practice expanded. She’s one of only two Spanish-speaking neuropsychologists in the area, and the only female. Dr. Mercado felt called to expand her efforts in the private sector, although she does continue to teach one graduate-level course at Trinity University. Her work with TBI patients has led to demand for her expert witness testimony when someone has sustained an injury, primarily traumatic brain injuries, or accident that has caused impairments in cognition and psychological functioning. Dr. Mercado expressively conveys in court the reality faced by one living with a brain injury or PTSD.
TBI’s are rated on a continuum from mild (known commonly as concussion) to severe. Concussions are caused by a blow or a violent head shake such as whiplash. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination. Many youth sports involve at least some risk for concussion. Dr. Mercado recommends athletes schedule an office appointment for a pre-season concussion screening to establish a neurologic baseline. The 45-minute test includes a set of neuropsychological exams developed to assess and score an individual’s brain function ability in coordination, problem solving, vision and response speed. If a concussion is suspected, the athlete can return to the office to re-take the test, which will provide clear, objective results of any cognitive impairment.
Dr. Mercado also helps families obtain proper diagnosis for ADHD – both for children and adults (a rarely publicized yet common occurrence.) If a child is struggling in school, has trouble sitting still or completing tasks, she suggests testing – especially if there’s a family history of ADHD, as the condition is heritable. “Don’t procrastinate any longer. There are many new treatments available, but they all start with the proper diagnosis,” she said. “Help your children have new opportunities for growth and success.”
The seven-woman team at the Neuropsychological Institute of San Antonio includes two neuropsychologists, a litigation specialist, nurse and other support staff members. Trained clinicians provide evidence-based cognitive processing therapies for trauma recovery or offer compensatory strategies to cope with impairments. A newer phenomenon Dr. Mercado’s been seeing are teens struggling with in-person social interactions as they’ve grown dependent upon their cell phones. Counselors provide psychotherapy and offer help with structures, disciplines and boundaries. They are also available for individual, couples and family therapy.
It’s devastating to watch an elderly loved one lose their capacity to communicate or care for themselves. Dr. Mercado works with neurologists and geriatric specialty physicians to provide diagnoses for dementia and Parkinson’s patients. A proper diagnosis is key to access resources and support for both the patient and caregivers.
See their website at https://texasneuropsychinstitute.com for a comprehensive list of services.
Contact the Neuropsychological Institute of San Antonio at (210) 281-4248 to schedule an appointment for evaluation. Your Health is Their Peace of Mind.