From the Archives: Rita Levi-Montalcini

Levi-Montalcini_featDana Alliance member Piergiorgio Strata has just published “Rita Levi-Montalcini and her major contribution to neurobiology” in Rendiconti Lincei; its English version is open-access for reading via Springer Publishing. Its 17 pages are filled with family and science-family photos, including as she entered medical school and when she was awarded a Nobel Prize, and her major scientific collaborators, as well as classic illustrations of her work in neuroembryology and much more (she lived to age 103). Her personal story is inspiring—including doing seminal research at home during wartime in Italy after she was banned from entering formal research facilities because of her faith.

“Life does not end with death. What you pass on to others remains. Immortality is not the body, which will one day die. That does not matter… of importance is the message you leave to others,” said Levi-Montalcini, who was also a founding European Dana Alliance for the Brain member. We were working with her to publish a translation of her latest memoir into English when she died, in 2012. Continue reading

Neuroscience and Society: Autism

When we’re trying to help people who have troubles due to autism spectrum disorders, one of the first challenges is definition: What does “autism” mean?

“Autism was and is still currently defined by behaviors,” Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon said, as researchers haven’t yet found solid biomarkers or other internal signals to identify it. “Whenever you read about autism, you might want to dig into what definitions they go into,” he said during a recent discussion at the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in Washington, DC.

Autism -Dawson - Oct2018Even definitions by behavior vary. For example, fellow presenter Daniel Geschwind said, problems with language used to be part of the diagnosis, but now doctors and other caregivers usually only count differences in social behavior and the presence of “repetitive-restrictive” behavior (like hand-flapping or always needing to do activities in the same order).

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Senior Dana Alliance Couple Demystifies Dyslexia

It was not long ago that dyslexia was believed to be a sign of laziness, unintelligence, or even bad vision. However, thanks to breakthroughs in research by couple Sally Shaywitz, M.D., and Bennett Shaywitz, M.D., stereotypes around the learning disorder have begun to fade.

Affecting approximately one in five people, dyslexia is characterized by a difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words, which is called decoding. Also known as a reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language. Dyslexia is not considered a disease, and its causes are neurobiological and genetic. Those affected by it can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum, and treatment involves adjusting teaching methods to meet the person’s needs.

While it has been studied before, the Shaywitzes are often credited with many of the breakthroughs regarding the disorder. Sally, 76, and Bennett, 79, are both Dana Alliance for Brain Initiative members who have been married for 55 years. Having met in 1963 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the couple now run the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and have recently updated a study they began in 1983, according to their recent profile in The New York Times.

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Technology and Addiction Take Center Stage at Neuroethics Meeting

Guest blog by Moheb Costandi.

ins horizontalRapid technological advances are improving not only our understanding of how the brain works, but also our ability to manipulate it and make inferences about peoples’ behavior.

Such advances should ultimately be of huge benefit to society. They also raise various concerns, regarding privacy and identity in particular; and in a month’s time, some of the world’s leading bioethicists will convene in San Diego for the Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) to discuss these issues.

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Free Public Event on Autism

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Autism is a mysterious and puzzling disorder. In 1943, American child psychiatrist Leo Kanner first published a paper describing 11 children who were highly intelligent but displayed “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” He called this condition “early infantile autism.” Prior to that time, people with autism were simply called insane. Autism is now officially known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and, while there is a wide variation in the nature and severity of its signs, people with ASD typically have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. Continue reading

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