Alzheimer’s Awareness Interview: Gary Landreth

Dana Alliance member Gary Landreth, Ph.D., is a professor of neurosciences and neurology and the director of the Alzheimer Research Laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. In recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, he spoke to us about his career, clinical trials, and the pressures to find answers to the Alzheimer’s puzzle.

What interested you about Alzheimer’s research?Landreth headshot

I was recruited to my present job specifically because I had not previously worked on Alzheimer’s disease (AD). That was thought to be a virtue. My independent scientific career was focused on how growth factors elicit their effects in neurons. I moved to the newly established Alzheimer Research Laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in 1989 to investigate how growth factors might impact AD pathogenesis and whether they might represent a therapeutic approach to the disease. My research gravitated to the study of the innate immune responses in the brain. Specifically, we investigate how microglia respond to amyloid accumulation and promote its clearance. This remains the focus of work in the lab.

Why was it an advantage that you hadn’t worked on AD before?

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Do’s and Don’ts of Science Writing

Scientific research can be a lonely business. Labs and studies are collaborative, but the work is task driven, and results often take a year or two. For researchers, communication mostly means talking to like-minded lab partners or collaborators in pursuit of similar goals or outcomes.

But communicating brain research in compelling and creative ways to the tax-paying public and, even more importantly, to decision-makers, is viewed as crucial—especially in the ever-competitive grant and funding climate. That was a significant part of the message in a well-attended professional development workshop at this year’s Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C. The workshop featured four experienced science communicators: Elaine Snell, Tiffany Lohwater, Jane Nevins, and Stuart Firestein, Ph.D.

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Communicating Science Takes Center Stage at Brain Awareness Reception

“Communicating science is not just the noble thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said adolescent brain expert Jay Giedd, M.D., at Saturday’s annual Brain Awareness Week reception at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting. Dr. Giedd, below, the recipient of SfN’s Science Educator Award in 2012, was alluding to the fact that in order for the public to want to invest in brain research, they have to be able to understand its benefits.

Giedd_BAW

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Neuroscience and Human Rights

Can human rights principles and neuroethics become more integrated in future discourse?

During the final panel of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) annual meeting, moderator Stephen Marks, from the Harvard School of Public Health, noted the absence of the human rights framework from key literature in the neuroethics field, and challenged the panelists to address this gap and identify areas where neuroscience and human rights overlap.

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Susana Martinez-Conde receives SfN 2014 Science Educator Award

SfN President Carol Mason presented Susana Martinez-Conde with the award on Saturday.

SfN President Carol Mason presented Susana Martinez-Conde with the award on Saturday.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) awarded its Science Educator Award to Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD, of the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center. SfN President Carol Mason presented her the award on Saturday during the group’s annual meeting, in Washington, DC. This is the first year the Dana Foundation has sponsored this award.

I met Dr. Martinez-Conde last month, when she was a panelist at an eye-opening event on the science behind illusions. Visual experience and other illusions are the subject of her research and a popular-science book, Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions, written with her co-investigator and husband Stephen L. Macknik. They also write the popular Illusions column for Scientific American. Their close collaboration with top professional illusionists like James (The Amazing) Randi, Mac King, and Teller started at a conference they organized in 2007, but we spoke about an earlier conference, where her ideas for outreach started to grow.

Q: Was it a conscious decision of yours to do a lot of education and outreach, as well as research?

Susana Martinez-Conde: I would say that it kind of started as an accident. But it has been so rewarding at all levels, personally and professionally.

In 2004, I was organizing the annual European Conference on Visual Perception, which was to be held in my home city of A Coruña, in Spain. Growing up there, I think, had to do with why I’m interested in science education today. Even now, it’s a relatively small city, less than 300,000 people, but it has a very large concentration of science museums. And it has one of the first interactive museums, the Casa de las Ciencias, the Home of Sciences. The director, RamónNúñez Centella at the time, was a major influence in science education and outreach in Spain. For me, it was a five minute walk from where I lived.

So as I was organizing this conference in my home town, I thought it would be nice to extend it, and include some public outreach. So I contacted Mr. Núñez and we established a collaboration with, at the time, the three science museums of the city. We held events that were open for the public at some of these museums.

We also had the idea to hold a contest for “The Best Illusion of the Year.” It was supposed to have been a one‑time event, but the public reception and the academic community reception were just so huge that we decided to make this an annual event. Continue reading

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