Can We Undo the Course of Neurodegenerative Disease?

Columbia professor Rene Hen, Ph.D., called his former student Ai Yamamoto, Ph.D. , “one of the new young stars of Columbia University.” In describing her research into neurodegenerative disease, he cited “remarkable discoveries that have generated enormous hope.”

Following her mentor at Wednesday’s event, hosted by the University’s Mind Brain Behavior Institute and sponsored by the Dana Foundation, Dr. Yamamoto expressed gratitude for these generous words, but also trepidation. “You know those movie trailers that are really good, and then you go and see the movie and are disappointed? There’s a bit of pressure here…”

Yamamoto had little to worry about. The fascinating developments she recounted suggested the possibility not only of arresting the onslaught of diseases like Huntington’s disease (HD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but of undoing the damage done.

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The Deliberating Brain: Columbia’s Mind Brain Behavior Initiative

Not long ago, my editor asked if I wanted to cover a lecture
by a premier neuroscience researcher on the fascinating topic of “the
deliberating brain,” preceded by cocktails at one of New York’s most elegant
old hotels.

As decisions go, I thought, this was a no-brainer.

But I was wrong. One thing that Dana Alliance member Michael
N. Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D., made very clear in his talk, hosted by the Columbia
University Mind Brain Behavior Initiative
 and sponsored by the Dana
Foundation, is that no decision is a no-brainer. “By understanding the building
blocks of decision making,” he told his audience, “we can understand how the
brain achieves cognition writ large.”

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