Epilepsy Awareness Month

While epilepsy ranks fourth in most common neurological disorders, there are still common misconceptions about the condition, which can develop at any age. In the US alone, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Roberto Tuchman

Photo courtesy of Roberto Tuchman

With November being “National Epilepsy Awareness Month,” we spoke to Roberto Tuchman, M.D., who is the director of autism and neurodevelopment programs at Miami Children’s Hospital. Tuchman founded the hospital’s Dan Marino Center for children with developmental disorders and gives lectures around the world on the topics of epilepsy, autism, and learning disorders. He is also a Dana Alliance member.

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Is Professional Football Safe?

“New Data Shows 96% of NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease” declares the headline of a recent and alarming article from TIME magazine. Surely, if this is the case, why would anyone want to pursue a career in the sport? Well, it turns out, it may not be the case, said Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard University in last night’s International Neuroethics Society event about safety in professional football.

“Much of the information we have today is based on woefully underpowered studies,” he explained. “If you want to make sound inferences of risk you need about 70 percent of the reachable public,“ which in this case would be 10,000 former NFL players (of the approximately 15,000 alive today). To put things into perspective, the study mentioned above only studied the brains of 91 former players.


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Neuroethics Seminar Series: Seeing Consciousness

shutterstock_221470261How is new technology helping us gain a better understanding of consciousness in patients with severe brain damage? If a patient is unable to communicate or even blink, does that mean he or she is completely unaware? At what point should the intentions stated in a living will be determined by the patient’s family or surrogate?

These questions were among the issues discussed at Harvard Medical School’s most recent neuroethics seminar, titled “Seeing Consciousness: The Promise and Perils of Brain Imaging in Disorders of Consciousness.” The school’s  Center for Bioethics invited Joseph Giacino, Ph.D., director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital; Joseph Fins, M.D., chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College; and James Bernat, M.D., Louis and Ruth Frank Professor of Neuroscience at The Dartmouth Institute to share the stage and give a brief talk for its Neuroethics Seminar Series.

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Kids and Sport-Related Concussions

People who play football have a higher number of concussions than those who play any other sport. Which comes second?

  1. Girl’s soccer
  2. Boy’s wrestling
  3. Boy’s ice hockey.

Well, you’ll have to watch the new BrainWorks video about kids and sports-related concussions to hear the answer.  I know, not fair, but trust me, it’s a great video!

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Tackling the Issue of CTE in Sports

football CTEWith another football season on the horizon, coupled with last week’s induction of legendary linebacker Junior Seau into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the controversial topic of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is back on the front burner. CTE is a type of degenerative brain disease that has become a hot button issue in the world of contact sports.

Following Seau’s retirement in 2010 after an extraordinary 20-year career, his family began to notice bouts of insomnia, depression, extreme mood swings, and emotional withdrawal. “It was hard,” his daughter, Sydney, told Yahoo Sports. “[W]e were all reaching for someone that wasn’t exactly reaching back, even though…we knew that he wanted to.”

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