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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Celebrate the Brain: BAW Animation

While our brains are always working to keep our bodies running, how often do we stop and think about their significance? Every year in March, one week is dedicated to celebrating all things relating to the brain. What started as a national campaign to promote communication and awareness about the brain has evolved into an international celebration engaging students, teachers, scientists, and the public alike. This year marks the 21st annual Brain Awareness Week (BAW), which will take place March 14-20.

Learn more about BAW in this short animation:

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A Study of Motivation

Adcock, R. Alison_heashot“What makes us curious? What makes us play with our environment and investigate it? Why are some people more curious than others—and why does my own curiosity wax and wane over time?” These are questions Dana Foundation grantee R. Alison Adcock has asked herself since she was child, and which have led her to focus her scientific research on motivation.

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Monitoring the Body’s Invisible Clock

Our body is regulated by an invisible clock that influences our wakefulness, sleep, thoughts, and emotions. The circadian clock is an important regulatory feature, yet neuroscientists still don’t completely understand it. Although cognitive tests can be performed, it was difficult to monitor brain cells over the course of a day until neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Huda Akil, M.D., designed an experiment that gave a new perspective on circadian clocks.

“Maybe it’s simple-minded, but nobody had thought of it,” she said to The New York Times in a recent article. Her team examined the healthy brains of 55 donors who had died suddenly at different times of the day. As reported by the Times:

As each person died, his brain cells were in the midst of making proteins from certain genes. Because the brains had been quickly preserved, the scientists could still measure the activity of those genes at the time of death.

Most of the genes they examined didn’t show any regular pattern of activity over the course of the day. But they found that more than 1,000 genes followed a daily cycle. People who died at the same time of day were making those genes at the same levels.

The findings were so consistent that they even enabled the scientists to determine the time of death within the hour.

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The Holiday Blues

Contrary to popular belief, suicides do not increase during the winter holidays. But that doesn’t mean that holiday depression or sadness is not real for some people.

In the Dana Foundation’s new briefing paper, “Holiday Blues: Getting the Facts, Forgetting the Myth,” mental health experts and Dana Alliance members Myrna Weissman and Eric Nestler discuss what factors may contribute to these “holiday blues.”

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