Author Interviews, Neurology / 05.04.2018 Interview with: “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1844–1926 Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0Yi-Ya Fang NYU School of Medicine Dayu Lin, PhD Neuroscience Institute, New York University Langone School of Medicine,  Department of Psychiatry, Center for Neural Science New York, NY Response: Maternal behaviors are essential for survival of offspring across mammalian species. In rodents, mothers show several characteristic pup caring behaviors including grooming pups, crouching over pups and approaching and retrieving pups. Decades of research has been trying to understand how the neural circuit is wired to generate these elaborate maternal behaviors. Medial preoptic area (MPOA), which is located at anterior part of hypothalamus, has been indicated to be important for maternal behaviors. Many studies consistently found deficits in maternal behaviors after damaging the MPOA. To dissect the maternal circuits in the brain, we looked into the properties of the Esr1+ cells. In this study, we identify estrogen receptor α (Esr1) expressing cells in MPOA as key mediators of pup approach and retrieval. We focused on Esr1 (Esr1) expressing cells in the MPOA since estrogen has been shown to facilitate maternal behaviors, presumably through its action of estrogen sensing cells. We found that reversible inactivation of MPOA Esr1+ cells impairs maternal behaviors whereas optogenetic activation of MPOA Esr1+ cells induces immediate pup retrieval. Additionally, we found that MPOA Esr1+ cells are preferentially activated during maternal behaviors, and the cell responses changed across reproductive states. Tracing studies revealed that MPOA Esr1+ cells project strongly to ventral tegmental area (VTA), a region that has been indicated in motivation and reward. Specifically, MPOA Esr1+ cells provide strong inhibitory inputs preferentially to the GABAergic cells in the VTA, which in turn could disinhibit the dopaminergic cells.  VTA dopaminergic cells are highly activated during maternal behaviors. Altogether, our study provides new insight into the neural circuit that generates maternal behaviors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lancet, Neurological Disorders, Neurology / 23.03.2018 Interview with: David Birnkrant, MD Professor of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Director of Pediatric Pulmonology & Student Education, MetroHealth Medical Center What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study updates guidance on all aspects of the multi-disciplinary care of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The project was funded by the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the results were recently published as three articles in The Lancet Neurology. The project was guided by a 25-member steering committee. Eleven expert committees worked over a period of three years to develop guidelines based on the RAND/UCLA appropriateness method, in which assessments and interventions were evaluated for appropriateness and necessity. The recommendations update those originally published in 2010. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is transmitted by X-linked recessive inheritance and thus affects primarily boys and men. Patients affected by DMD do not produce functional dystrophin protein, resulting in progressive weakness of skeletal, respiratory, and heart muscles, causing a shortened life span. Teens and young men may require surgery for curvature of the spine, a ventilator device to assist breathing, and a feeding tube to help ensure adequate nutrition. The approach of the various subspecialties involved in DMD management has evolved, with more anticipatory assessment and therapy, identifying and addressing predictable medical complications as early as possible for optimal patient outcomes. With this kind of multi-disciplinary care, people with DMD now live into their 30s and beyond. Along with the emergence of new genetic and molecular therapies, the recognition that people with DMD are living longer was one of the main motivations behind the need for these updated care considerations. Patients with DMD, their families and their advocacy organizations are driving a new emphasis on optimizing quality of life, not just prolongation of survival. Thus, there was a need to address issues related to transitions of care from childhood to adulthood, coordination of care across subspecialties, and other topics related to education, vocation, independence, personal relationships, emotional health, and intimacy. The updated care considerations thus include eleven topic areas, eight of which were part of the 2010 guidelines. These are: (1) diagnosis, (2) neuromuscular management, (3) rehabilitation management, (4) gastrointestinal and nutritional management, (5) respiratory management, (6) cardiac management, (7) orthopedic and surgical management, and (8) psychosocial management. Three topics are new: (9) primary care and emergency management, (10) endocrine management (including growth, puberty, adrenal insufficiency, and bone health), and (11) transitions of care across the lifespan. (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Author Interviews, Neurology, Pharmaceutical Companies / 23.03.2018 Interview with: Dr. Joseph Horrigan MD Pediatric neuropsychiatrist Chief medical officer What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by myotonic dystrophy? What are the manifestations of this disease? Response: This was the first pharmaceutical intervention study conducted in adolescents and adults with congenital and juvenile onset DM1. Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a disorder that impacts multiple body systems following a trinucleotide expansion repeat of the DMPK gene on chromosome 19. Children with Congenital DM1 present at birth with respiratory insufficiency, talipes equinovarus (clubfoot), feeding difficulties and hypotonia. There is a risk mortality rate in the first year of life. As children grow, they are at risk for intellectual impairment, autistic features, gastrointestinal symptoms, motor delay and a variety of muscle-based symptoms. (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Neurology / 14.03.2018 Interview with: Veljko Dubljević, Ph.D., D.Phil. Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Science Technology and Society Program, North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC 27607 What is the background for this study? Response: There is considerable controversy about the interpretation of data of the neuroscientific studies done by Benjamin Libet. On the one hand, Libet claimed that his work disproves certain metaphysical conceptions of free will (Libertarianism), whereas it does not disprove others (e.g., Compatibilism). In a nutshell, the reason for these claims is that Libet found preparatory brain activity (Readiness Potentials or RPs) some 500ms before the conscious decision to act was felt by study participants. That seemed to exclude the possibility that mental causation was taking place. At the same time, the onset of movement left a time-window for a 'veto-decision'. This led Libet to conclude that there is no 'free will', but that there is a 'free won't'. On the other hand, there were many criticisms of the study - methodological or substantive. Most notably, Patrick Haggard argued that it is not RPs that are correlates of a decision to act, but Lateralized Readiness Potentials (LRPs). Haggard agreed with many critics of Libet in that RPs could be connected to a range of other phenomena, and that preparatory brain activity that is most important for a decision to act already has to be 'lateralized'. Namely, the decision to move the left or right arm is critical in this regard, and will lead to RP being focused in one or the other hemisphere, thus making LRPs the point of interest for any conscious decision to act. All in all, Haggard claimed to have replicated Libet's major findings, with the caveat that timing of LRPs excludes the time-frame for a 'veto-decision'. This Haggard claimed makes the evidence more in line with the metaphysical doctrine of 'hard determinism', which excludes agency and responsibility. Many other neuroscientists followed Libet's (and Haggard's) lead and these experiment became part of 'lore' in neuroscience education - many other labs performed similar experiments and claimed to basically replicate the findings. Our study was the first to review all available evidence. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Neurology / 16.02.2018 Interview with: Joseph Therriault Integrative Program in Neuroscience What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Neurologists have known for a long time that Anosognosia, or unawareness of illness, appears in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, these patients will have diminished awareness of their memory loss, and will also engage in dangerous behaviors, such as leaving the house to go for a walk, without knowing they are at high risk of getting lost. However, it was not known if decreased awareness of cognitive problems existed in the pre-dementia phase of Alzheimer’s disease. In our study, we compared the ratings of cognitive decline from the patient and their close relative, who also filled out the same questionnaire. When a patient reported having no cognitive problems but the family member reported significant difficulties, the patient was considered to have poor awareness of illness. We found that patients who are less aware had increased disease pathology, and were nearly three times as likely to progress to dementia within two years, even when taking into account other factors like genetic risk, age, gender and education. The increased progression to dementia was mirrored by increased brain metabolic dysfunction in regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurology / 15.02.2018 Interview with: Jan R. Wessel, Ph.D. Asst. Professor Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Department of Neurology Iowa Neuroscience Institute University of Iowa What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: We found that the occurence of unexpected events, such as sudden, surprising sounds lead to an automatic engagement of a well-known brain network for action-stopping, thereby leading to a suppression of ongoing motor activity. Specifically, we found that when participants had to stop an action, their ability to do so was significantly improved when the cue to stop was accompanied by a sudden, unexpected sound. This improvement was accompanied by an amplification of the brain activity that is related to action-stopping, and was also accompanied by an increase of suppression of excitability of the motor cortex.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mayo Clinic, Neurology / 13.02.2018 Interview with: Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch. Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota What is the background for this study?   Response: Traditionally it has been thought that infections (e.g., viruses)  account for the majority of encephalitis cases. Recent discoveries of neural autoantibody markers of encephalitis (e.g., NMDA receptor autoantibodies) have led to an appreciation that encephalitis cases can be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the brain, what we term autoimmune encephalitis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Neurology / 25.01.2018 Interview with: Ona Bloom PhD “Duluth Boat Show - Sea Lamprey Booth” by USFWSmidwest is licensed under CC BY 2.0Associate Professor, Center for Autoimmune, Musculoskeletal and Hematopoietic Diseases, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Scientists have known for years that an ancient species of fish called the lamprey has a remarkable ability to rebuild their spinal cord after it’s been severed. After the lamprey spinal cord is cut, they recover from paralysis to fully swimming again in about twelve weeks, without taking any medicines or other treatments. We are studying the lamprey because we want to know the recipe of molecular ingredients that supports successful recovery after spinal cord injury. The genome of this animal was reported about 5 years ago, in a publication led by my colleagues Dr. Jeramiah Smith at the University of Kentucky and Dr. Weiming Li at Michigan State University.  It turns out that many aspects of the lamprey genome are similar to ours, particularly in the central nervous system. Therefore, we think it is a reasonable expectation that what we learn from lamprey could give us some relevant clues about what might be different about the responses in mammals and other animals that are not good at regenerating their spinal cord. In this study, we found that the expression of many genes in the spinal cord and brain of lampreys change during their recovery from spinal cord injury. Some of the genes that get activated are similar to what happens when our peripheral nervous system is injured, which is better at regenerating than the central nervous system. We also identified that a pathway called the Wnt pathway plays an important role in the regeneration and recovery process. This is a large, complex network of genes that are important in many biological processes, from embryological development in fruit flies to cancer in humans. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, JAMA, Neurology, Parkinson's / 25.01.2018 Interview with: Rachel Saunders-Pullman, MD, MPH Associate Professor of Neurology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Chief, Movement Disorders, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Co-Director Clinical/Translational Research and Research Mentoring Movement Disorders, Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel New York, NY 10003 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: There is a diversity in causes of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and this may lead to heterogeneity in drug response. While LRRK2 PD due to G2019S mutations may fully mimic idiopathic PD (IPD), cross-sectional study suggests that the course may be slightly milder than IPD. Further, the pathology is heterogeneous with a minority not demonstrating Lewy bodies, and this may also correspond to less severe non-motor features. To better understand the course of PD associated with the G2019S LRRK2 mutation (the most common LRRK2 mutation), we evaluated motor and cognitive progression in individuals enrolled in the LRRK2 Ashkenazi Jewish Consortium. Subjects were recruited from a Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sourasky Medical Center, and from two centers in New York, Columbia University and Mount Sinai Beth Israel. 144 participants were LRRK2 mutation carriers and 401 were not. We utilized all study visits, and constructed linear mixed-effects models to estimate the association between harboring the LRRK2 mutation and rate of change of both motor features- as assessed by the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), and cognition, as measured by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Scale (MoCA). Models adjusted for sex, site, age, disease duration and (for the motor models) cognitive score. We found a small but significant difference in rate of progression, with LRRK2 PD progressing at 0.69 points/year, and IPD at 1.06 points/year. While the cognitive decline was also less in the LRRK2 PD (-0.10 vs. -0.19 in the IPD, this difference was not statistically different (p=0.08). (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Neurology / 13.01.2018 Interview with: Fredrik Piehl MD PhD, prof. of Neurology Neuroimmunology Unit. Dept Clinical Neuroscience Neurology Dept. Karolinska University Hospital (Solna) Stockholm What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In recent years we have seen a drastic increase in treatment options for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). However, it is difficult to deduce long term performance of different drugs based only on data from randomized controlled trials, since such trials are performed in selected patients without major co-morbidities and perhaps also enriched for those with a milder disease course. In addition, most trials only last for two years and lack relevant comparators. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to predict if a drug will work or not for a given patient, in turn leading to frequent treatment switches but also different treatment practices across countries, regions or even between centers. This is also the case in Sweden, but with the additional aspect that some regions have opted to treat most newly diagnosed RRMS patients with rituximab (Rituxan/Mabthera), a drug not formally approved for RRMS, but with extensive safety data from other indications. (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, Neurology, Pediatrics / 13.12.2017 Interview with: Kaisa Lohvansuu, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research Department of Psychology University of Jyväskylä What is the background for this study? Response: Developmental dyslexia, a specific reading disability, has a strong genetic basis: The risk of having developmental dyslexia at school age is eight times higher than usual if either of the parents has reading difficulty. It has been known that dyslexia and also family risk for dyslexia are strongly associated with a speech perception deficit, but the underlying mechanism of how the impaired speech processing leads to reading difficulties has been unclear. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, JAMA, Neurology, Pulmonary Disease / 29.11.2017 Interview with: Jinsy Andrews, MD, MS Director of Neuromuscular Clinical Trials Columbia University The Neurological Institute New York, NY 10032 What is the background for this study? Response: The importance of respiratory function in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has long been recognized. Despite ALS being a clinical diagnosis with variable presentation and variable rates of disease progression, all patients experience respiratory symptoms and inevitably die typically from respiratory failure. At present there is no validated biomarker of disease progression or clinical staging system. Direct measure of respiratory function in ALS is important and can be measured using vital capacity. Although the forced maneuver (FVC) has been widely used in patients with ALS, it can underestimate the actual lung capacity by causing fatigue or inducing bronchospasm in patients with ALS. More recently, the slow maneuver (SVC) has been used since it can be obtained from patients with advancing disease which can potentially minimize missing data and may reduce any underestimation of actual lung capacity due to a forceful effort. However, the prognostic value of the decline in SVC is unclear in patients with ALS. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Infections, Neurology, Parkinson's / 22.09.2017 Interview with: Rima McLeod, M.D., F.A.C.P, F.I.D.S.A Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences,Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), and The College, Director, Toxoplasmosis Center, Senior Fellow,Institute of Genomics, Genetics and Systems Biology, Member, Commitees on Immunology, and Molecular Medicine and Pathogenesis, Member Global Health Center, Affiliate CHeSS; Attending Physician, Chicago Medicine, The University of Chicago What is the background for this study? * One third of humans are infected lifelong with the brain-dwelling, protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. * Approximately fifteen million of these have congenital toxoplasmosis. * The parasite interconverts between slow-growing, encysted bradyzoites and rapid-growing tachyzoites. * In mice, T. gondii creates a chronic intra-neuronal infection and an inflammatory process. * Mice with acute and chronic infection have alterations in neurotransmitters, memory, seizures, and neurobehavior. * Some epidemiologic-serologic studies show associations between seropositivity for T. gondii and human neurologic diseases, for example, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. * Although neurobehavioral disease is associated with seropositivity, causality is unproven. * Serologic studies of humans with diverse genetics are not optimal to detect strong associations or directionality. * Epidemiologic associations also do not reveal parasite-modulated gene networks in human brain that could provide insights into how to cure and prevent resultant diseases. * We need integrative approaches to examine relationships between brain parasitism and other brain diseases, to provide a foundation to identify key pathways and molecules for drug and vaccine design * To address these problems, we considered two central questions: (i) If chronic brain parasitism associates with other neurologic diseases, what are they? And (ii) Which macromolecular networks are modulated by the parasite in human brain that lead to neuropathology which could underpin and facilitate design of treatments? * We hypothesized that a systems approach integrating multiple levels of host parasite interactions might resolve these questions. * To better understand what this parasite does to human brains, we performed a comprehensive systems analysis of the infected brain.  (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cancer Research, Immunotherapy, Neurology, Radiology / 01.05.2017 Interview with: Ben Larimer, PhD research fellow in lab of Umar Mahmood, MD, PhD Massachusetts General Hospital Professor, Radiology, Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer treatment, unfortunately they only work in a minority of patients. This means that most people who are put on a checkpoint inhibitor will not benefit but still have the increased risk of side effects. They also lose time they could have spent on other therapies. The ability to differentiate early in the course of treatment patients who are likely to benefit from immunotherapy from those who will not greatly improves individual patient care and helps accelerate the development of new therapies. The main purpose of our study was to find a way to separate immunotherapy responders from non-responders at the earliest time point possible, and develop an imaging probe that would allow us to distinguish this non-invasively. Granzyme B is a protein that immune cells use to actually kill their target. They keep it locked up in special compartments until they get the right signal to kill, after which they release it along with another protein called perforin that allows it to go inside of tumor cells and kill them. We designed a probe that only binds to granzyme B after it is released from immune cells, so that we could directly measure immune cell killing. We then attached it to a radioactive atom that quickly decays, so we could use PET scanning to noninvasively image the entire body to see where immune cells were actively releasing tumor-killing granzyme B. We took genetically identical mice and gave them identical cancer and then treated every mouse with checkpoint inhibitors, which we knew would result in roughly half of the mice responding, but we wouldn’t know which ones until their tumors began to shrink. A little over a week after giving therapy to the mice, and before any of the tumors started to shrink, we injected our imaging probe and performed PET scans. When we looked at the mice by PET imaging, they fell into two groups. One group had high PET uptake, meaning high levels of granzyme B in the tumors, the other group had low levels of PET signal in the tumors. When we then followed out the two groups, all of the mice with high granzyme B PET uptake ended up responding to the therapy and their tumors subsequently disappeared, whereas those with low uptake had their tumors continue to grow. We were very excited about this and so we expanded our collaboration with co-authors Keith Flaherty and Genevieve Boland to get patient samples from patients who were on checkpoint inhibitor therapy to see if the same pattern held true in humans. When we looked at the human melanoma tumor samples we saw the same pattern, high secreted granzyme levels in responders and much lower levels in non-responders. (more…)
Author Interviews, Circadian Rhythm, Neurological Disorders, Neurology / 21.04.2017 Interview with: Dr. Christine Blume PhD Post-Doctoral Researcher University of Salzburg Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCNS) Laboratory for Sleep, Cognition & Consciousness Research Salzburg What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We are governed by rhythmic processes. Many of these processes follow a circadian pattern, that is, they have a period length of approximately 24 hours and are under tight control of a biological master clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Given the circadian variation in global states like alertness, it is not surprising that consciousness also varies rhythmically in healthy individuals, it follows the sleep-wake cycle. From a clinical perspective, misalignment of circadian rhythms, which occurs when the sleep-wake schedule is at odds with the light-dark cycle as in the case of night shifts, can cause considerable stress, have detrimental effects on the immune system and impair cognitive abilities. Despite the knowledge that entrained circadian rhythms are important for healthy body and brain functioning, very little is known about circadian rhythms in patients diagnosed with a disorder of consciousness (DOC) following severe brain injuries. We argue that studying circadian rhythms in DOC patients may be especially interesting and important for two reasons. First, the presence or absence of circadian rhythms as well as anomalies in them could be informative about the state of the patient as well as their potential for recovery. Second, this could provide information about time points that best capture remaining cognitive functions thereby minimising the risk of misdiagnoses. Beyond this, examining circadian processes may also provide targets for therapeutic interventions such as light stimulation, which has proven successful in individuals with e.g. circadian sleep disorders. Interestingly, analyses with Lomb-Scargle periodograms revealed significant circadian rhythmicity in all patients (range 23.5-26.3h). We found that especially scores on the arousal subscale of the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised (CRS-R) were closely linked to the integrity of circadian variations in body temperature. Finally, we piloted whether bright light stimulation could boost circadian rhythmicity and found positive evidence in two out of eight patients. (more…)
ALS, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Neurology / 24.03.2017 Interview with: Mary-Louise Rogers, PhD Senior Research Fellow, Lab Head, Motor Neurone Disease and Neurotrophic Research Laboratory, Department of Human Physiology, Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University, School of Medicine, South Australia, Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in which motor neurons, cells that control muscle activity such as walking, talking and breathing, gradually die off, resulting in paralysis. There is no cure for ALS. In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Neurology, and led by Mary-Louise Rogers, Ph.D., senior research fellow at Flinders University, Australia, and Michael Benatar, M.D., Ph.D, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine,  have identified concentrations of p75ECD, the extracellular domain on the common neurotrophin receptor p75, as the first biological fluid-based biomarker for ALS progression. . Neurotrophin receptor p75 is a growth factor receptor for neurotrophins whom promote the survival of nerve cells. Under normal circumstances, it is highly expressed on motor neurons during development but decreases after birth. Following nerve injury, however, the expression of p75 is increased and the extracellular domain of p75 is detectable in urine. Dr Rogers and her Doctoral student Stephanie Shepheard hypothesized and then showed, that p75ECD is excreted into the urine of SOD1 mice, the most commonly used animal model of ALS. These findings empowered further investigation of p75ECD, showing raised levels in the urine of patients with ALS and that it might have potential as an ALS biomarker. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Neurology, Sleep Disorders / 25.02.2017 Interview with: Dr. Matthew P. Pase Sidney Sax NHMRC Fellow, Department of Neurology Boston University School of Medicine Investigator, Framingham Heart Study; Senior Research Fellow, Swinburne University of Technology. Boston MA 02118 What is the background for this study? Response: Sleep disturbances are common in dementia. However, most studies have focused on patients who already have dementia and so it is unclear whether disturbed sleep is a symptom or a cause of dementia. We studied 2,457 older participants enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, a large group of adults sampled from the community in Framingham, Massachusetts. We asked participants to indicate how long they typically slept each night. Participants were then observed for the following 10-years to determine who developed dementia, including dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. Over the 10 years, we observed 234 cases of dementia. Information on sleep duration was then examined with respect to the risk of developing dementia. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 18.02.2017 Interview with: Linard Filli, PhD Gait Research Lab Department of Neurology University Hospital Zurich Zürich What is the background for this study? Response: Gait dysfunction is common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is perceived as the most restricting of symptoms. Fampridine (4-aminopyridine, dalfampridine), a blocker of voltage-gated potassium channels, is currently the only approved medication for the symptomatic treatment of walking disorders in patients in both the early and late phases of  multiple sclerosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, Neurological Disorders, Neurology, University of Pittsburgh / 30.01.2017 Interview with: Neil A. Busis, M.D. University of Pittsburgh Physicians Department of Neurology Chief of Neurology, UPMC Shadyside Director of Community Neurology What is the background for this study? Response: Previous studies showed that neurologists have both one of the highest rates of burnout and the lowest rates of satisfaction with work-life balance, compared to other physicians. The mission of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is to promote the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care and enhance member career satisfaction. This is why AAN President Dr. Terrence Cascino initiated this research, to better define the issue. Our findings can guide current and future programs to prevent and mitigate neurologist burnout, promote neurologist career satisfaction and well-being, and direct efforts to advocate on behalf of neurologists and their patients. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Kidney Disease, Neurology / 19.12.2016 Interview with: Kay Deckers, MSc PhD student School for Mental Health and Neuroscience Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology Maastricht University The Netherlands What is the background for this study? Response: In an earlier review (, we found that renal dysfunction was one the new candidate risk factors of dementia and needed further investigation. What are the main findings? Response: Albuminuria is associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurology, Stroke / 29.08.2016 Interview with: Dr. Ashkan Shoamanesh MD FRCPC Assistant Professor Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine McMaster University and Dr. Jose Rafael Romero, MD Associate Professor of Neurology Boston University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The Framingham Heart Study is a population-based study of individuals residing in the community. Identifying people who are at risk for stroke can help us determine who would benefit most from existing or new therapies to prevent stroke. As inflammatory pathways are believed to contribute to vascular disease and stroke, we tested whether circulating biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction could improve the predictive ability of the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile score, a model that contains classical vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Our main observation was that inclusion of 4 biomarkers (C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor receptor-2, total homocysteine, and vascular endothelial growth factor) in the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile improved its ability to predict a stroke (net reclassification improvement of 0.34 [0.12–0.57]). (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Calcium, Neurology / 19.08.2016 Interview with: Silke Kern, MD, PhD Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology Unit and Clinical Neurochemistry Laboratory Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology Sahlgrenska Academy University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Calcium has an important role in ischemic neuronal cell death and atherosclerosis. Several studies suggest that increased serum calcium increases the risk for vascular events and worsens the outcome after stroke. Widespread ischemic neuronal cell death and atherosclerosis might lead to dementia. We therefore examined if Calcium supplementation is associated with development of dementia. Our study is the first to show a relationship between Calcium supplementation and increased risk for dementia in older women. This risk is mainly confined to women with cerebrovascular disease (history of stroke or presence of white matter lesions). (more…)
Author Interviews, MRI, Neurological Disorders, Neurology, NIH, Stroke / 22.06.2016 Interview with: Dr. Richard Leigh MD Neuro Vascular Brain Imaging Unit National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Patients who suffer an ischemic stroke have limited treatment options. One of the reasons for this is that our treatments can sometimes make the stroke worse by transforming the ischemic stroke into a hemorrhagic stroke. In our study we identified a new piece of information that we can extract from the patient’s MRI scan that informs us on the risk of having a hemorrhage. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Colon Cancer, Immunotherapy, Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 13.05.2016 Interview with: PD Dr. Mathias Buttmann Senior Consultant Neurologist and Head of the Multiple Sclerosis Outpatient Clinic University of Wuerzburg Wuerzburg, Germany What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Buttmann: The synthetic anthracenedione mitoxantrone is approved for disease-modifying treatment of patients with aggressive forms of relapsing or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). It has been known for years that this DNA-intercalating agent increases the risk of acute myeloid leukemia. We performed a retrospective cohort study to investigate whether mitoxantrone also increases the risk for other types of malignancies. We included all 677 mitoxantrone-treated  multiple sclerosis patients who were seen at our large German academic MS centre between 1994 and 2007 and collected follow-up information on the occurrence of malignancies, death and causes of death as of 2011. Follow-up was complete in 676 patients. The median age at mitoxantrone initiation was 41 years and the median follow-up duration was 8.7 years. We identified 37 patients with a malignancy after mitoxantrone initiation, among them 4 cases of acute myeloic leukemia and 7 cases of colorectal cancer. Compared to the general population matched for sex, age and year of occurrence, we calculated an 1.5-fold increased incidence of any type of malignancy, a tenfold increased incidence of acute myeloic leukemia and a threefold increased incidence of colorectal cancer, while the incidence of other types of malignancies was not increased. Higher age at mitoxantrone initiation but neither higher cumulative mitoxantrone dose nor treatment with other immuosuppressive agents was identified as a malignancy risk factor. Fifty-five patients had died, among them 12 from a malignancy. Our study confirmed previous reports on an increased incidence of acute myeloic leukemia after mitoxantrone treatment and newly described an association between mitoxantrone therapy and an increased incidence of colorectal cancer. (more…)
Author Interviews, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology, NYU / 21.04.2016 Interview with: Leigh Elkins Charvet, PhD Director of MS Research Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center Associate Professor of Neurology NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? Dr. Charvet One of the goals of our work is to identify cognitive impairment at the earliest point that it occurs in multiple sclerosis (MS), and ultimately to predict those who are at greatest risk.  Olfactory impairment is a feature of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and predicts cognitive decline.  Olfactory impairment has also been reported in adults with multiple sclerosis.  Our study, lead by Colleen Schwarz, measured olfactory identification and its link to cognitive performance in a subpopulation of those with earliest onset of MS—pediatric onset multiple sclerosis (POMS, referring to those with onset before the age of 18). (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Education, Mayo Clinic, Neurology / 25.02.2016 Interview with: Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Vemuri: Lifetime Intellectual enrichment has been found to delay the symptoms of dementia but the impact on brain changes due to Alzheimer’s disease has been poorly understood. In this study we studied the impact of lifetime intellectual enrichment (education, occupation, and midlife cognitive activities) on the brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease. We obtained serial imaging on 393 individuals from a population based sample. We found that in majority of the individuals, there were minimal effects of intellectual enrichment on brain changes due to Alzheimer’s disease. However in those with higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s, lifetime intellectual enrichment had a protective effect on the brain. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Neurology / 15.09.2015

R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD Director of the Memory Disorders Program Georgetown University Medical Interview with: R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD Director of the Memory Disorders Program Georgetown University Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Turner: The resveratrol trial originated from the extensive scientific literature demonstrating that caloric restriction (consuming only 2/3 usual calories) prevents or delays diseases of aging - including Alzheimer's disease (AD) in laboratory animals. The molecular mechanism is thought to involve sirtuins - a group of genes/proteins that sense energy balance to regulate gene expression. Sirtuins are activated by caloric restriction (a mild stressor) to express genes that promote resilience of the organism. Resveratrol is a potent activator of sirtuins - thus bypassing the requirement for caloric restriction. On the opposite side of the coin - caloric excess, midlife obesity, and diabetes are strong risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. And we have long-known that resveratrol is found in red grapes, red wine, and other foods that promote general health. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brain Cancer - Brain Tumors, Chemotherapy, Neurology, Radiation Therapy / 20.08.2015

Jorg Dietrich, MBA MMSc MD PhD Director, Cancer & Neurotoxicity Clinic and Brain Repair Research Program Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Assistant Professor of Neurology Harvard Medical Interview with: Jorg Dietrich, MBA MMSc MD PhD  Director, Cancer & Neurotoxicity Clinic and Brain Repair Research Program Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Assistant Professor of Neurology Harvard Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dietrich: Understanding the adverse effects associated with cancer therapy is an important issue in oncology. Specifically, management of acute and delayed neurotoxicity of chemotherapy and radiation in brain cancer patients has been challenging. There is an unmet clinical need to better characterize the effects of standard cancer therapy on the normal brain and to identify patients at risk of developing neurotoxicity. In this regard, identifying novel biomarkers of neurotoxicity is essential to develop strategies to protect the brain and promote repair of treatment-induced damage. In this study, we demonstrate that standard chemotherapy and radiation in patients treated for glioblastoma is associated with progressive brain volume loss and damage to gray matter – the area of the brain that contains most neurons. A cohort of 14 patients underwent sequential magnetic resonance imaging studies prior to, during and following standard chemoradiation to characterize the pattern of structural changes that occur as a consequence of treatment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Beth Israel Deaconess, Cognitive Issues, Diabetes, Neurology / 11.07.2015

Vera Novak, MD PhD Associate Professor of Neurology Dept. of Neurology, Stroke Division Director Syncope and Falls in the Elderly Laboratory Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston, Interview with: Vera Novak, MD PhD Associate Professor of Neurology Dept. of Neurology, Stroke Division Director Syncope and Falls in the Elderly Laboratory Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston, MA MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Novak: Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality. Type 2 diabetes mellitus affects more than 44 million people in the U.S., and its numbers are growing rapidly, affecting up to 27% of older adults. Diabetes mellitus accelerates brain aging by about 5 years1, manifests as a widespread generalized atrophy2, and promotes earlier onset of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).3,4 Diabetes mellitus -related atrophy manifests as worse cognitive function, memory, and gait, especially during a dual task, 5,6 and even a tight glycemic control did not improve cognitive function in participants of the large clinical trials 7. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. Novak: Sixty-five participants (aged 66± 9.2 years) 35 with T2DM and 30 non-diabetic controls participated in this study. After 2 years of follow-up, participants with T2 Diabetes mellitus had diminished vascular reactivity in the brain (an ability to increase blood flow in responses to a task or metabolic demands) and performed worse on multiple cognitive tasks (in particular verbal learning and memory). In T2DM group, lower cerebral vasoreactivity correlated with worse performance on daily living activities. Specifically, the lower vasodilatation (ability to increase blood flow) was associated with worse mental functions. In addition, those with higher markers of inflammation had greater decline in vascular function in the brain. (more…)
Author Interviews, MRI, Neurology, Stroke / 14.05.2015

Amie W. Hsia, MD Medical Director, Comprehensive Stroke Center MedStar Washington Hospital Center NIH Stroke Program at MWHC Associate Professor, Neurology Georgetown University Washington, DC Interview with: Amie W. Hsia, MD Medical Director, Comprehensive Stroke Center MedStar Washington Hospital Center NIH Stroke Program at MWHC Associate Professor, Neurology Georgetown University Washington, DC 20010   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hsia: Acute stroke is a common presenting problem in the emergency department. We know that “time is brain” and that for patients experiencing an ischemic or “blockage” type of stroke, the most common type, the sooner we can administer tPA, a clot-busting medication and the only FDA-approved medication to treat acute stroke, the better chance for a good outcome. Therefore, there is a goal national benchmark time of administering the drug to appropriate acute stroke patients within 60 minutes of their arrival to the emergency department. There are many steps that are necessary in the evaluation of an acute stroke patient in the emergency department before tPA can be given. This includes a brain scan to make sure a patient is not having the less common bleeding type of stroke. A CT or “CAT” scan is the typical type of brain scan that is performed in emergency departments across the country and the world to screen a patient before giving tPA. The primary purpose of the CT scan is to exclude bleeding; it is difficult to visualize an early stroke on CT. Though an MRI can give more complete information including showing the stroke as it is happening in these first few hours and though most hospitals have an MRI scanner, an MRI takes longer to perform and has not traditionally been used in an emergency setting. At the two hospitals included in this study, MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C. and Suburban Hospital in Maryland, we are fortunate to serve as the sites for the NINDS intramural stroke clinical research program and use MRI routinely to screen acute stroke patients to learn more about stroke and develop new treatments for stroke. It is upon this foundation that we performed independent hospital-wide quality improvement initiatives engaging multidisciplinary committees with leadership from all the departments involved in the care of the acute stroke patient in that critical first 60 minutes. Inspired by our colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis led by Dr. Andria Ford who used similar methods in reducing treatment times with CT screening, we used lean manufacturing principles to streamline our processes that include MRI screening and dramatically reduced our treatment times from a baseline of 93 minutes down to 55 minutes while still maintaining safety. Through these efficiency improvements, we were able to achieve a 4-fold increase in the percentage of stroke patients treated with tPA within 60 minutes. (more…)