This morning, the Lasker Foundation announced that two scientists, one a European Dana Alliance member and the other a Dana Alliance member, will share the 2014 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. The award recognizes the work of Alim Louis Benabid and Mahlon R. DeLong to develop deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus, surgically implanting a “brain pacemaker” that can reduce tremors and restore motor functions in people who have advanced Parkinson’s disease.
This Saturday in New York City, the New York Academy of Medicine is holding its daylong Performing Medicine Festival. The wide assortment of events include a creative blend of music, dance, and storytelling, with lessons about diseases and disorders.
From the NYAM website:
Performers include Dr. Richard Kogan with a musical performance and lecture on creative genius and psychiatric illness; Brian Lobel on his comedic adventures as a cancer patient; Parkinson’s coach and dancer Pamela Quinn on reading bodies; David Leventhal with DANCE FOR PD® from Mark Morris Dance Group/Brooklyn Parkinson Group; and Mount Sinai’s Academy for Medicine and the Humanities on the art of listening. Dr. Danielle Ofri leads a panel discussion, and musicians from Weill Cornell’s Music and Medicine Initiative, provide musical interludes.
Dana Alliance member Mahlon DeLong, M.D, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, is a recipient of the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. He received the $3 million prize for defining the interlocking circuits in the brain that malfunction in Parkinson’s disease.
“This was an most unexpected and pleasant surprise,” DeLong said. “I hope that all recognize the contributions of those who did much of the ‘heavy lifting’ underlying the research and that the award helps to underscore the importance of research and its rewards, both personal and societal.”
DeLong and the Dana Foundation have a long history together. In addition to his DABI membership, he has written about deep brain stimulation for Cerebrum (2009) and the Dana Progress Report on Brain Research (2008). We profiled him in 2009 (two parts), when he talked about the importance of the basal ganglia, and interviewed him for Parkinson’s Awareness Month last year.
DeLong was one of six winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which recognizes excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. “The Breakthrough Prize is our effort to put the spotlight on these amazing heroes. Their work in physics and genetics, cosmology, neurology and mathematics will change lives for generations and we are excited to celebrate them,” commented Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and one the sponsors of the award.
Some people with Parkinson’s disease or intractible depression have shown great improvement using implanted and external brain stimulation. In our news story “Stimulating the Brain: From If to How,” writer Carl Sherman describes how researchers are diving down, to improve treatment methods and to discover what, exactly, stimulating the brain does:
April is Autism Awareness Month as well as Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Last year, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon, M.D., director of cognitive neurology/neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins University, as well as Dana Alliance member Mahlon DeLong, M.D., a neurology professor at Emory University.
I e-mailed Dr. Gordon this week to get a quick update about autism research. He said there has been incremental progress in both the basic genetic studies and in some of the epidemiologic studies, such as a recent study suggesting a link between prenatal antidepressant use and autism.