Can Alzheimer’s Be Treated Before Symptoms Occur?

reisa sperlingWhile considering whether to go to medical school, Dana Alliance member Reisa Sperling, M.D., noticed her grandfather had started to act strangely. She only later realized that he had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. His death when she was a neurology resident, along with her father’s diagnosis, influenced her decision to focus her research on the early detection of Alzheimer’s. She is now the director of clinical research at the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Sperling discussed her personal experience with the disease, and her ongoing research, in a fall interview for the Harvard Medical Labcast.

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Record Turnout for NYC Regional Brain Bee

Twelfth-grader Melissa Cao, from Long Island’s Bethpage High School, took home the grand prize after a close race with two other finalists at Saturday’s Regional Brain Bee at Columbia University in New York City. The local event is part of an annual international neuroscience competition. Winners advance into the national and then international competitions during the spring and summer months as part of Brain Awareness Week (BAW).

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Program moderator Carol Mason, Ph.D., awards Cao her first place prize. Photo credit: Jacqueline Silberbrush

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The Physics of Folds and Grooves

guest post by Kayt Sukel

Gel-printed brain. Image courtesy of T. Tallinen, J-Y Chung and L. Mahadevan

Gel-printed brain forming folds after it was placed in liquid solvent. Image and video below courtesy of T. Tallinen, J-Y Chung, and L. Mahadevan

The human brain has a remarkably distinct shape. With its folds and valleys (gyri and sulci, respectively), there is no bodily organ like it. How and why does it have this accordion-like structure? That’s remained an open, and highly debated, question among neuroscientists. Some argued there must be some biological factors within neurons and supporting cells that program them to grow this way. Others hypothesized that the brain’s gulfs and valleys are due to simple physics—that is, the mechanical compression involved with developing inside the enclosed case of the skull. Now, work done at Harvard University and Finland’s University of Jyväskylä suggests the latter argument may be the correct one.

“The number, size, shape, and position of neuronal cells during brain growth all lead to the expansion of the gray matter, known as the cortex, relative to the underlying white matter,” says Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, a physicist and applied mathematician at Harvard. “This puts the cortex under compression leading to a mechanical instability that causes it to crease locally, a process called gyrification.” Continue reading

National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (January 25-31)

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On Monday, National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week began, sparking local events across the country in an effort to “shatter the myths” about drugs and alcohol, particularly among teens.

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Dana News E-Blast: January

Here are some stories recently posted on dana.org

cere_article_Baumann_0116_featThe Changing Face of Recreational Drug Use

by Michael H. Baumann, Ph.D.

Known as “designer drugs,” new psychoactive substances (NPS) represents a disturbing new trend. Our article describes what is known about the molecular mechanisms of action, and highlights some of the considerable challenges in dealing with this public health problem. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

Adcock, R. Alison_heashotA Study of Motivation

It’s difficult to know what motivates people, but R. Alison Adcock’s lab is using imaging to study how states like desire and curiosity can facilitate “motivated memory.” Her work could have implications in the education field, but also in other learning contexts like psychotherapy and behavior change. One of our series of Scientist Q&As. Continue reading

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