Living with Parkinson’s

Alan Alda at Columbia cropped

Best known for M*A*S*H*, Alan Alda has also appeared in 48 films, on Broadway, and written two books. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso, Columbia University

It was hard to miss Alan Alda’s announcement this week on CBS This Morning that the legendary actor had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than three years ago. Alda, 82, said one of the reasons he was speaking out was to offer a message of hope to people who are living with the disease: “In the very beginning, to be immobilized by fear and think the worst thing has happened to you – it hasn’t happened to you. You still have things you can do. I’m taking boxing lessons three times a week. I do singles tennis a couple of times a week. I march to Sousa music because marching to music is good for Parkinson’s.”

Through the years, our Dana Foundation publications have often focused on both Parkinson’s disease and Alda’s passion to better communicate science to the public, which is part of our mission as well.

In 2015, about the same time that Alda learned he had Parkinson’s, I wrote “Alda Crushes It,” a blog on Alda’s lecture at Columbia University, entitled “Getting Behind a Blind Date with Science.” In this captivating lecture, co-sponsored by Dana and the Kavli Foundation, he talked about why he had co-founded his own center for science communication at Stony Brook University and how he had been inspired by his time as host of Scientific American Frontiers, a PBS program that explored any number of topics. He was engaging, insightful, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

A year later the publication I edit, Cerebrum, reviewed Alda’s new book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face. We asked Eric Chudler, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington and the executive director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering in Seattle, to tell us what he thought. Chudler wrote: “With humor and a clear, concise, and never stilted writing style, Alda takes readers on his journey to help experts convey neuroscience and other complex scientific topics to a variety of audiences.”

Last year Cerebrum published “Gut Feelings on Parkinson’s and Depression,”  an article by Ted Dinan and John Cryan, researchers at the University of Cork in Ireland,  that focused on microbiota’s emerging role in trying to solve the puzzle that could lead to treatment. We also published “A Smell Test for Parkinson’s,” an article about the growing role of olfactory in diagnosing the disease.

Alda told CBS that one of the reasons he decided to reveal that he was living with Parkinson’s was that he had been on television a lot in the last few weeks talking about Clear + Vivid, his new podcast. He noticed watching himself that his thumb was twitching and felt that “it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am.”

All of us at the Dana Foundation are rooting hard for Alda—and know that he will continue to serve as a role model to others with Parkinson’s or any other potentially debilitating neurological disorder.

— Bill Glovin

Closed Captioning and Transcripts Now Available for Videos and Podcasts!

At the Dana Foundation, we strive to make credible and current information about the brain available to as many people as possible. As part of that effort, we have recently taken steps to make our materials accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The majority of our YouTube videos are now closed captioned, including our Neuroscience and Society Series, public talks organized by AAAS and the Dana Foundation covering exciting topics in brain science such as architecture and the brain, truth and lying, and meditation. Our Cerebrum podcasts, which feature our Cerebrum editor in conversation with neuroscientists on topics such as the challenge of overcoming glioblastoma, how the human neocortex sets us apart, and Ketamine’s potential to effectively treat depression, now have accompanying transcripts.

Looking for one of our closed caption videos to start with? Check out our brand new Successful Aging and Your Brain On Demand video below to learn about how the brain works, brain diseases and disorders, and tips for leading a brain healthy lifestyle!

– Ali Chunovic

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

UofExeter_Shutterstock.jpg

Photo: Shutterstock

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a condition that many are familiar with because of its overwhelming impact and prevalence in the world. In the US, it is the sixth leading cause of death, with women making up almost two-thirds of those with the disease. While it is just one of many types of dementia, Alzheimer’s accounts for up to 80 percent of cases.

In addition to Aphasia Awareness [see previous post], June is also Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Led by the Alzheimer’s Association, the national observance is dedicated to increasing public awareness of AD through conversations among friends, families, and coworkers. The more people know about Alzheimer’s, the more action can be inspired in hopes of better treatments or a potential cure.

Continue reading

Tips to Get Moving for National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

Senior Fitness.jpg

Image: Shutterstock

Whether you’re already physically active or looking to get started, today is a great day to get moving! It’s the 25th anniversary of Senior Health & Fitness Day, the nation’s largest annual health promotion event for older adults. More than 1,000 local organizations in all 50 states are hosting activities such as fitness walks, low-impact exercises, health screenings, health information workshops, and more.

While exercise has benefits for the whole body, it is especially important for your brain as you age. Experts from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), a collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts who focus on brain heath and aging, agreed in a report that people who exercise “show beneficial changes in brain structure and function” and “have lower risk of cognitive decline.” Physical activity can make positive changes in our brains that will keep us sharp into old age.

The experts at GCBH also outlined the following guidelines for anyone looking to improve their level of physical activity and keep it enjoyable:

Continue reading

Successful Aging & Your Brain at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

After an inaugural, successful, and sold-out program last September, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan partnered with the Dana Foundation once again to present Successful Aging & Your Brain (SA&YB) Tuesday evening—this time in celebration of Brain Awareness Week!

Speaker Matthew Fink, M.D., Neurologist-in-Chief at New York-Presbysterian and chairman, neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine, has participated as a panelist for SA&YB programs multiple times and has also frequently spoken at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. He discussed brain function, changes in the brain as we age, memory, brain diseases and disorders, and maximizing brain function and health.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: