While I was writing my PhD I craved the opportunity to discuss and debate the state of the dementia field, where it’s been and where it’s going and the often competing priorities of stakeholders including people living with dementia, families, health care professionals, researchers, policy makers and the charity sector. What I learned was that a PhD was often a long, lonely slog with only the warm glow from my computer screen to keep me company.
But for the past nine months, I’ve finally had that opportunity to discuss and debate and I’ve gotten to experience it in a multi-disciplinary setting to better understand the perspectives of other disciplines different to my own.
Failing a calculus class and grappling with tax issues made comedian Josh Kornbluth very unhappy, so he created and performed comedic monologues about the topics to feel more in control of his life.
Now he is tapping into that type of storytelling for dementia patients and their caregivers at UC San Francisco.
In early June, the Global Brain Health Institute hosted Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a Brazilian scientist who challenged the dogma that the brain has a hundred billion neurons. Herculano-Houzel could find no evidence or origin for this claim, so she set out to count every neuron herself. Her book The Human Advantage chronicles her journey into the brain to prove that humans fall short of this number. In the end, she found that the human brain has 86 billion neurons, far fewer than other species with bigger brains. Her message: humans aren’t as special as we think we are.
Good news from research by GBHI Fellow Claire McEvoy: following the Mediterranean diet is linked to a 30-35% decrease in risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.
McEvoy presented the findings at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting in London this week, which earned her the conference's Postdoc Poster Award. Her research was covered in CNN, CBS, the Guardian, Fortune, and Daily Mail.
Atlantic Fellow Heidi Clare recorded the first episode of Brain Song Radio live at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, interviewing musician Jon Langford and neurologist Bruce Miller to discuss creativity in the brain.
What’s needed to understand the brain is a parts list: a population of neurons, a close community of glial cells and a map of the neighborhoods that are hard hit in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Bring neurologist Bill Seeley these things and let him get under the hood: He will figure out why some brain regions are vulnerable to specific diseases and others are not.
When Debbie and Andrea’s sister shut down and stopped talking, after she publically obsessed over the beauty of her own feet, after the length of her sentences fractured into one word, after her blood was sent off for scrutiny, the pieces of a sad family puzzle finally fell into place. Their sister has a newly identified genetic mutation called chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) that can cause either frontotemporal dementia or motor neuron disease.
Zachary Miller loves talking to his patients about their childhood. He believes that the clues to some neurodegenerative diseases have roots in a person’s early years of life. Did your mother have a normal pregnancy? Were you born on time? Did you enjoy reading? Were you ever tutored in math? Are you left-handed? And on and on it goes, patching together dozens of bits of life history to make sense of why an aging brain may be more vulnerable to specific types of dementia.