Healthy Vision Month Interview

We read countless articles on the importance of diet and exercise to keep our brains and bodies as healthy as possible. Proper eye care is something that is equally important but is often overlooked. In an effort to encourage everyone to make their eye health a priority, the National Eye Institute began promoting May as “National Healthy Vision Month.” While today is officially the last day of Healthy Vision Month, it’s important that we continue to take care of our eyes all year long.

Because exercise usually involves taking part in outdoor activities, we wanted to speak with an expert on tips for maintaining eye health while playing sports. Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., is an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy was founded in 1896 and is currently the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons.

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Huntington’s Disease on NY1

Earlier this week, geneticist and Dana Alliance member Nancy Wexler, Ph.D., was featured in a segment on New York City’s local news channel, NY1. As Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at Columbia University and president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, Wexler is a pioneer in the race to find a cure for Huntington’s disease (HD).

The fatal, genetic disease causes a painful deterioration of physical and mental abilities, due to the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, “HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faculty gene.”

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BAW Partner Interview: Inga Griskova-Bulanova

This is the first in a series of Brain Awareness Week partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Inga Griskova-Bulanova, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of neurobiology and biophysics at Vilnius University in Lithuania, as well as a European Dana Alliance member.

Inga Griskova-BulanovaHow and why did you first become involved in Brain Awareness Week (BAW)?

I’ve always felt it is challenging to talk about science (and brain science in particular) to people from other areas. We do not do it as often as we could and should.

In 2013, we launched a normative database collection to be used as a comparison for our schizophrenia project. We needed volunteers and I started recruiting subjects from everywhere. In the process, I realized that what we do is really interesting to people. Everyone listened to my explanations about what we were doing with such curiosity, admitting they knew so little about the topic. And so I took an action to make community more informed– I proposed to make BAW our regular activity. My colleagues were very enthusiastic about that idea as well. And we still are!

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National Recovery Month: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

OBrien_Charles_featThe month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This month, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Addiction Treatment. For more than thirty years, O’Brien has worked to improve addiction treatment and has made many breakthroughs regarding the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction?

Most physicians learn very little about addictive disorders in medical school or residency. Rather than being considered a disease of the brain, most see it as bad behavior. They don’t know that there are FDA approved medications and that patients do respond to treatment, even though “cures” are rare.

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NIMH Director Thomas Insel Moves to Google Life Sciences

Guest Post by Kayt Sukel

800px-Thomas_Insel_NIMH_2011Earlier this week, the neuroscience community learned that Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), member of the Dana Alliance’s Executive Committee, and longtime champion of brain research, was leaving his post to take a new position at Google Life Sciences (GLS). Many reacted to Insel’s move with surprise, even shock. How could such an innovative researcher move to the private sector—and to a technology company at that?  But Insel says that technology players are going to play an increasingly important role in our understanding—and management—of mental health disorders. He spoke with the Dana Foundation about why understanding the brain has to be a team effort, the potential power of data analytics, and how all the players can work together to further our goals regarding mental health.

Many were surprised by the news that you are heading to GLS, as opposed to back to academia or to another government position. What drew you to the technology sector?

Insel:  Historically, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies work in this space. But now, technology companies like IBM, Apple, GE, and Google are coming to the table with their own strengths. And that’s a good thing. The fact is, we’re all focused on the same ultimate goal:  What will it take to make a big difference for people with schizophrenia, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders?  We haven’t been able to bend the curve, so far, with the kind of research we’ve historically done. So it became clear to me that we’re going to have to do something very different to make that difference. I can understand that some people get anxious when they see someone from NIH leave to join a tech company. But I’m excited about going to GLS, a place where they are very interested in trying something very different.

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