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.”

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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

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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.

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It’s Tick Season Again: From the Archives

As North America heats up for summer, so does the activity of ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas, whose bites can carry diseases like Lyme, dengue and Zika, and plague. Between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported, and nine new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

May is  Lyme Disease Awareness Month; people who become infected risk long-term problems with skin, heart, and joints–and brain. The disease can cause cognitive and memory impairment, headaches, neuropathic pain, facial palsies, encephalitis, and seizures.

Microbiologist and former Dana grantee Mark Wooten, at the University of Toledo, studies how the Lyme-triggering bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks, interacts with the mammalian immune system. He credits growing up on a farm in Arkansas, in an area with a lot of ticks, with piquing his interest in Lyme disease, which was then a relatively new discovery. He talked with us last year about what makes this bacterium so tricky:

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Dana Alliance Members in Conversation: A Q&A with Eric Nestler

We spoke to neuroscientist and former Society for Neuroscience president Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., about the bipartisan nature of biomedical research, his hopes for the future of addiction and depression, new findings on stress and depression, and more in the latest Dana Alliance member Q&A. These Q&As are part of a regular series of in-depth interviews that give readers a look into the outreach, research, and interests of the preeminent neuroscientists that make up the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

On why his institution, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, prioritizes outreach, Nestler said:

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