Down Syndrome Interview: Julie Korenberg

Dana Alliance member Julie Korenberg, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of pediatrics and the director of the Center for Integrated Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of Utah. She is an internationally recognized leader in human and molecular genetics and has dedicated her career to understanding the genetic underpinnings of Down syndrome and Williams syndrome, advancing development of better treatments and prevention methods.

As Down Syndrome Awareness Month winds down, Korenberg spoke about the past, present, and future of the most common chromosomal disorder, a condition that affects about one in every 700 babies.

What got you interested in researching Down syndrome?

I was an intensely curious child, fascinated with the universe and the magic of the body. I went to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for my Ph.D. in the 1970s and it changed my life. Through my work there, I thought that the insights from flies and plants would, with a few twists, provide keys to humans.

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The Science of Illusion


Most talks on the brain science of illusion feature slides or recordings, but the presentation last night at AAAS in Washington, DC, offered illustrations in four dimensions—a live performance by mesmerist Alain Nu. “The Man Who Knows” treated us to a series of experiences hard to explain but easy to enjoy. I’m going to describe a bit of what happened but you may want to wait for the video (due in a week or so) to see for yourself, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

For example, Nu showed us a can of soda, popping the top, pouring soda into two ice-filled glasses, crumpling the can a bit as he invited two volunteers to quaff it down. After they had, Nu’s hands danced around the can, and its bends slowly straightened—and then it was full of soda. He popped the top, and poured more soda out, to the evident enjoyment of the two volunteers, who got a second helping. How did he do it? After his set, Nu joined three scientists who told us we’d only fooled ourselves.

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Dana Newsletter: October

Below is the content that appeared in the latest Dana email newsletter. You can sign up to receive this (and other Dana email alerts and/or print publications) by going here.

With a Little Help from Our Friends: How the Brain Processes Empathy

by Peggy Mason, Ph.D.

Why are certain individuals born with a brain that is wired to help others? What daily habits or life experiences reinforce compassion but also selfishness, narcissism, and psychopathy? A better understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings for how the brain processes empathy could lead to more social cohesion and less antisocial harm in society. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

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The Mysteries of Creativity

Guest post by science writer Carl Sherman

The relationship between creativity and mental illness has fascinated thinkers from the ancient Greeks onward. Van Gogh, Dostoevsky, Jackson Pollock, Hemingway, Tchaikovsky, and Schumann are among the artists, writers, and composers whose great achievements are said to have coexisted with significant psychopathology.

This apparent paradox is particularly striking in untrained “outsider artists” like Willem van Genk, who created estimable work despite a lifelong struggle with schizophrenia and autism. An exhibition devoted to van Genk was the occasion for a discussion, “Unraveling the Mysteries of Creativity: Connections to Genetics, Mental Health, and the Brain,” at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City last Thursday evening.

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New Report on Progress: Neuroscience in the Court

Craig Stark, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a Dana Alliance member, urges caution about how neuroscience advances may influence the courts in the October Report on Progress. In the report, Dr. Stark discusses the neuroimaging of brain scans and the limitation of memory:

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