New Cerebrum Podcast: The Human Connectome Project

In our September Cerebrum article, “The Human Connectome Project: Progress and Prospects,” David Van Essen, Ph.D., and Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., write about an ambitious six-year collaboration between neuroscientists at various institutions to map the brain with the help of 1,200 volunteers and ever evolving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. In this new podcast, the pair discuss their role, some of the unexpected surprises, and what they hope to discover in the project’s next phase.

Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with Brain Healthy Steps

There are approximately 46 million people living with dementia, costing $818 billion worldwide. By 2050, this number is estimated to rise to over 131 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). With so many people living to be older, dementia is becoming one of the world’s most urgent healthcare issues.

This September marks the fifth annual World’s Alzheimer’s Month, with people around the world hosting events to raise awareness. The theme for 2016 is “Remember Me,” with people sharing memories on social media using the hashtags #RememberMe and #WAM2016. Alzheimer’s disease, along with vascular dementia, is one of the most common forms of dementia.

Recently released in honor of World’s Alzheimer’s Month is ADI’s annual Alzheimer Report. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of transferring responsibilities to primary care services from more specialized services, such as geriatrics, and psychiatrists. “As the numbers of people affected and the demand for services increase, it is unlikely that full coverage of dementia healthcare services can be attained or afforded using the current specialist care model,” the report states.

With all this worrisome news about the rise in dementia, the most important thing we can do is lead a brain-healthy lifestyle. Small changes can significantly delay the onset of dementia, reducing costs and strain on our health care system, and more importantly increasing quality of life for seniors. The Dana Foundation has a new set of four steps, based on research by the Institute of Medicine, to help keep the brain functioning into old age:

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Malaria Treatment Shows Promise

This week, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published a study that addresses cerebral malaria, an illness that affects one percent of the 216 million people diagnosed with malaria globally each year. Led by neuroscientist Ana Rodriguez, Ph.D., the study was partially funded by a three-year grant from the Dana Foundation in 2009, as part of the now discontinued Neuroimmunology program.

Rodriguez and her team at NYU Langone Medical Center found that by combining the standard treatment of malaria (a drug called chloroquine) with two different types of drugs used to treat hypertension, the survival rate of infected mice more than tripled.

In an article highlighting the study, Rodriguez says:

About one in five patients with cerebral malaria die within 48 hours of being admitted to the hospital, and the time it takes for the parasite-killing drug to take effect…If we could add a drug that stopped hemorrhages during that window, it would buy time and save lives.

To read the press release detailing this study, click here.

– Seimi Rurup

Science Meets Art in New Kandel Book

Creativity (2).jpgWe don’t typically think of science and art as rooted in similar methodologies or techniques. Science is considered a strict, fact-based study of the world around us, while art is a no-rules expression of creativity. By thinking of the two disciplines as distinctly different, there has not been much study of their similarities.

Dana Alliance member Eric R. Kandel, M.D., noticed the lack of interdisciplinary study of artistic and scientific methodologies and used it as the foundation for his new book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures. The book examines modern neuroscience alongside modern art, focusing on how both disciplines use reductive techniques. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal about his book, Kandel said:

This is reductionism—to take a complex problem and select a central, but limited, component that you can study in depth. Rothko—only color. And yet the power it conveys is fantastic. Jackson Pollock got rid of all form.

[In neuroscience] you have to look at how behavior is changed by environmental experience…I began to realize we’ve got to find a very simple learning situation…I looked around for an animal that had the kind of [simple] nervous system I would like. Aplysia [has] the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom.

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Brain Awareness Week 2017: How About a Science Café?

If you haven’t started thinking about Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2017 (or even if you have), brainstorming for your event(s) is a good way to get cracking on your BAW Celebrate BAW Image_Squareplans. Types of events during BAW vary greatly, targeting many different audiences and covering a large range of topics. From laboratory visits for elementary students to symposiums for college students to concerts for all ages, BAW has it all!

One event type to consider are science cafés: “events that take place in causal settings such as pubs and coffeehouses, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic.” They encourage a dialogue between scientists and the public and are a uniquely informal and fun way to not only disseminate scientific knowledge, but also discuss it.

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