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.
I’m not an expert in climate change. However, I am a professional and academic expert in dementia and have noted some comparisons between the two. First, both have been heavily stigmatized and progress to better understand what is needed has been slow for the past thirty years. Second, both seem to have a need for positive change.
The brightest minds in brain health gathered in Barcelona recently for the second annual conference of the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) to discuss how best to impact the growing global plight of dementia. The inter-professional conference, held April 19-22, 2017, featured panel discussions, poster presentations, and breakout sessions on science, policy, and narrative, in addition to artistic performances. The meeting drew 175 attendees from Europe, North America, and South America, including 18 scholarship awardees primarily from the Mediterranean and Latin America.
She stares at me, owl-eyed, empty. There is no embarrassment when time ticks on. She stares. A sound breaks her gaze and her eyes lock on to a new target. She is nowhere to be found. The old her, that is. The woman who showed such immense joy and love as a mother is gone. Her husband moves her around the streets of their city like he is pulling a 100-pound weight on wheels in his hand. She goes with the flow. He and the children have built a life around this new woman – this wife and mother who is lost to a genetic disease that has stolen everything human about her. She is only 38 years old. She no longer speaks. She stares. She is led to the bathroom, to the shower, to the table where they put a fork or spoon in her hand for her to eat.
There was an unspoken script in a young girl’s life growing up in a cultured family in Brescia, Italy in the 1970s that she would go on to a university to study the humanities. But this young girl had no interest in the arts or classics – she did poorly in Latin and Greek – and she had her sites set for medicine. Her mom grew up in a transitional generation in the early 1960s but observed feminism through a telescope. She knew she wanted something different for her only daughter, but she was still trapped in the tradition that etched out life for an Italian girl.