Neurology News

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  • August 21, 2014

    Stem Cell Therapies Hold Promise, But Obstacles Remain

    In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and challenges facing the scientific community as therapies involving stem cells move closer to reality.

    The review article focuses on pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which are stem cells that can give rise to all cell types. These include both embryonic stem cells, and those derived from mature cells that have been reprogrammed or induced - a process typically involving a patient's own skin cells – so that they possess the characteristics of stem cells found at the earliest stage of development. These cells can then be differentiated, through careful manipulation of chemical and genetic signaling, to become virtually any cell type found in the body.

    The article addresses the current state of efforts to apply PSCs to treat a number of diseases, including diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. Goldman, a distinguished professor and co-director of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Center for Translational Neuromedicine, reviewed the current state of therapies for neurological diseases.

  • August 18, 2014

    Suburban Outlaw: Total (Lack of) Recall

    Mark Mapstone, an associate professor of neurology, says the best thing people can do for their brains as they age is to take care of their physical health.

    Mapstone explained that we remember stories from our past so well because we've practiced remembering them by calling them up over the years and sharing them with others. Recent memories aren't as sticky for a lot of reasons, including how well we pay attention in the moment and even how much stress we have in our lives. So, in addition to eating right and exercise to cultivate a better memory, Dr. Mapstone advises something simple: Pay attention. What a concept.

  • August 15, 2014

    Dr. Jonathan Mink Appears on ABC’s 20/20 to Discuss Tourette Syndrome in Athletes

    Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., Frederick A. Horner, MD Endowed Professor in Pediatric Neurology, appeared on ABC's 20/20 on August 15the to discuss Tourette Syndrome in athletes and whether it gives them an advantage. Mink, who specializes in Tourette syndrome and other movement disorders at the University of Rochester, and is the co-chair of the National Tourette Syndrome Association's scientific advisory board, is more skeptical, citing conflicting studies. He said the science isn't there yet to definitively prove that Tourette's can help give athletes with the condition superior skills or make, say, a basketball player the next Lebron James.

    The studies that have been done of people where actually measuring their movements, measuring how fast their movements are and the reaction times show that on average, people with Tourette Syndrome are about the same as people without, Mink said.

  • August 15, 2014

    Parkinson's Disease May Worsen Depression

    A push from Parkinson's disease could have put Robin Williams at risk of a perfect storm of depression, medical experts said Thursday.

    Although the disease is best known for its deleterious effects on the nerve cells that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that facilitates movement, Parkinson's also affects a host of other chemical messengers, including serotonin and norepinephrine, which may explain why patients are more likely to develop depression.

    The good news is that Parkinson's-related depression responds well to currently available antidepressants that pump up the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine circulating in the brain, said Dr. Irene Richard, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a science adviser to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

    The bad news: Often doctors and even patients themselves do not recognize the depression. It's just too easy to say that the patient is down because of the diagnosis, Richard said. Further, Parkinson's and depression have overlapping symptoms, such as a blank facial expression and a monotone voice, she explained.

  • August 14, 2014

    University Doctor to Cycle Across the U.S. for ALS

    Neurology's own Carly LaVigne (Director of the URMC Headache Center) is cycling across the USA in honor of her mother, Sally Hanan Oliver, who died of ALS at the age of 42. She will start her trip on August 24th in Astoria Oregon finishing 45 days later in Portland Maine. You can follow her progress at her 'Cycling for Sally' blog that Carly will keep throughout her journey. All proceeds raised will go to patient care services and support programs for the ALS clinic within our Division of Neuromuscular Disease.

  • July 28, 2014

    UR Medicine Opens Doors on New NeuroMedicine ICU

    UR Medicine today unveiled a new state-of-the-art unit dedicated to highly specialized care for people with serious and life-threatening neurological conditions, like strokes, seizures, brain and spinal tumors, and traumatic brain injury. The Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which is the only unit of its kind in the region, is located on the eighth floor of Strong Memorial Hospital.

    The $5.5 million, 5,500-square-foot unit consists of 12 beds and is staffed around the clock by an extended multidisciplinary team trained to treat the most challenging and difficult neurological disorders. The neurocritical care team members include neurointensivists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, critical care nurses, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, and clinical pharmacologists.

    Diseases and injuries that impact the brain and central nervous system have a unique set of challenges and require expertise that is not commonly found in a traditional ICU setting. While brain function must be continuously monitored, providers also need to be trained to recognize that these conditions can potentially lead to other problems, such as cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory complications or infections, particularly if a patient remains in an ICU setting for a long period of time. Also, once a patient has been stabilized, there must be continuity of care as they begin the process of recovery and transition to rehabilitation.

  • June 15, 2014

    How Do You Identify Migraine Triggers?

    Do you know when a migraine is about to happen? Some are still trying to figure out what triggers a migraine since everyone is different. There are common triggers, which could be causing your migraines. Evan Dawson talked with Dr. Catherine LaVigne from UR Medicine about these triggers and what you can do to find out what triggers your migraines. Dr. LaVigne is the director of the URMC Headache Center, which is dedicated to providing the highest level of care for people who suffer from chronic headache disorders.

  • June 13, 2014

    Profile of Excellence: Bob Holloway

    Robert G. Holloway, M.D., M.P.H.

    The 2013 Joynt Kindness Board Excellence Award in the Physician category is presented to Robert G. Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., the Edward A. and Alma Vollertsen Rykenboer Chair in Neurophysiology and Chair of the Department of Neurology.

    Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the URMC School of Medicine and Dentistry, calls Holloway the epitome of the academic 'triple threat.' For his teaching excellence, Holloway has been recognized by his colleagues and students on numerous occasions. His role with the Clinical and Translation Science Institute, leadership of a NIH-funded research network for neurological disorders, and his authorship of numerous papers in publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA are testaments to his scientific contributions.

    Holloway is also a true apostle of the principles of patient- and family-centered care, and it’s for these principles that he is recognized with this award. He considers himself a general neurologist with broad interests in those serious neurological disorders that can greatly impact longevity and quality of life, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

    You can read the entire article here.

  • June 13, 2014

    University Mourns the Loss of Nancy Benjamin

    Nancy Benjamin (1960-2014)

    University flags will be lowered June 19 in memory of Nancy Benjamin, administrative assistant in the Department of Neurology. Nancy joined the University staff in 1996. Her obituary appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle.

    Nancy Benjamin died on May 31 at the age of 54 following a courageous struggle with metastatic cancer. She was my secretary, assistant and friend since 1996. Nancy was devoted to her work in our department and at the University. She ran the neurology clerkship and was instrumental in its becoming the best clinical clerkship at URSMD. She was always available to help Clara Vigelette with any resident related issues. She loved the residents and the medical students with whom she interacted. She always had a smile and enjoyed a good laugh.

    Despite her medical problems, she came to work every day with a can-do attitude and refused to give in to her disease.

    Nancy loved her children, Morgan and Adam, and was always so proud of them. She was a devoted daughter and was always there for her mother. She was a friend to so many staff at the University and was always willing to help out when asked.

    Nancy was a very modest person and did not like any fuss. In place of a memorial service, she was remembered by her friends and family at a Happy Hour at McGinnity's Restaurant in Rochester last Friday. Nancy would have been so happy seeing all of her friends enjoying a beer in her memory.

    Nancy touched the lives of everyone with whom she interacted. She was a gem of a person with a sincere devotion to her family, her friends, and her work. She will be terribly missed.


    -Ralph F Józefowicz, MD

  • May 18, 2014

    Medical Scientist Training Program Announces Leadership Changes

    Marc Halterman, MD, PhD


    The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in the School of Medicine will be undergoing leadership changes effective 7/1/14 with Marc Halterman, MD, PhD taking on the position of Associate Director.

    Douglas Turner, PhD, who has served the Program in many capacities since 1989, will be stepping down from his current position as Associate Director to take a well-deserved sabbatical. MSTP Director, Kerry O’Banion, MD, PhD commented, I am deeply indebted to Doug Turner for providing support and encouragement to me when I became Co-Director in 2000, and for his continued role as a key member of the MSTP Admissions Committee, thesis advisor, grant reviewer, and a clear example of the close relationship between the College and the Medical School. Notably, Doug has mentored six MSTP students in his laboratory. I wish him much success as he ventures into new areas of research inquiry.

    Douglas Turner, PhD

    Stepping into the MSTP Associate Director position on 7/1/14 will be Marc Halterman, MD, PhD. Dr. Halterman graduated from the MSTP at Rochester in 2002 and went on to complete a Neurology Residency and Research Fellowship at University of Rochester. He is now Associate Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, and Director of the Neurology Academic Research Track, a research residency training program at University of Rochester. In addition, he serves on an NIH review panel for predoctoral NRSA (F) grants. Dr. Halterman has already generously given of his time serving the MSTP in several capacities. Since September 2011 he has acted as Course Director of MSTP-specific course Scientific Reasoning in Medicine. He joined the MSTP Admissions Committee in 2013 and is thesis advisor to one MSTP trainee conducting her PhD research in his laboratory. Dr. Halterman has also provided individual training and career advice to many MSTP students. As Associate Director, he will continue to be engaged in all of these activities and take on a broader role in helping trainees consider their options for research and residency selection. He will continue to serve as a member of the MSTP Admissions Committee and assist Dr. O’Banion in running an F30 Grant Writing Workshop for MSTP students.

    Dr. O’Banion continued, I very much look forward to working with Marc Halterman as we enter a new five-year funded cycle of the MSTP training grant and prepare for the 40th anniversary celebration of MSTP funding in October, 2015.

  • May 13, 2014

    The Doctor's in-Through Webcam, Smartphone

    Mark Matulaitis holds out his arms so the Parkinson's specialist can check his tremors. But this is no doctor's office: Matulaitis sits in his rural Maryland home as a neurologist a few hundred miles away examines him via the camera in his laptop.

    Welcome to the virtual house call, the latest twist on telemedicine. It's increasingly getting attention as a way to conveniently diagnose simple maladies, such as whether that runny nose and cough is a cold or the flu. One company even offers a smartphone app that lets tech-savvy consumers connect to a doctor for $49 a visit.

    Why can't we provide care to people wherever they are? asks Dr. Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who is leading a national study of video visits for Parkinson's patients and sees broader appeal. Think of taking your mom with Alzheimer's to a big urban medical center. Just getting through the parking lot they're disoriented, he adds. That's the standard of care but is it what we should be doing?

  • April 22, 2014

    Drug Improves Vision in Individuals with Neurological Disorder

    The drug acetazolamide, combined with a low-sodium weight reduction diet, improves vision in individuals with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), a condition brought about by abnormal pressure on the brain that is not the result of a tumor or other diseases.

    he study, which appears this week in the journal JAMA, was coordinated by Karl Kieburtz, M.D. and Michael McDermott, Ph.D. with the University of Rochester's Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics (CHET) and also involved Steven Feldon, M.D. with the Flaum Eye Institute.

  • April 22, 2014

    Global Burden of Neurological Diseases Requires New Approaches

    A perspective piece appearing today in the journal JAMA focuses on the challenges and opportunities arising from the increasing global incidence of neurological disorders. The authors advocate for new approaches that will increase access, lower costs, influence lifestyle changes, and create international research and clinical partnerships that address overlooked neurological conditions and underserved global populations.

    The piece is authored by University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry neurologists Gretchen Birbeck, M.D. and Robert Griggs, M.D., and Michael Hanna, M.D. with University College London. Birbeck is also member of the Epilepsy Care Team at Chikankata Hospital in Mazabuka, Zambia.

  • April 22, 2014

    Heart/Stroke Association Honors UR Medicine for Highest Quality Care

    The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has once again recognized UR Medicine and its Strong Memorial Hospital for achieving its highest standards of care for stroke, heart failure, and resuscitation.

    Strong Memorial Hospital has received the AHA/ASA Get With The Guidelines program's highest honor, the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for a fifth consecutive year. The hospital was also tapped for the Target: Stroke Honor Roll, which recognizes hospitals that have consistently and successfully reduced door-to-needle time – the window of time between a stroke victim's arrival at the hospital, the diagnosis of an acute ischemic stroke, and the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA.

    We are proud to earn this recognition, however we continue to work to improve time-to-treatment for people who are suffering a stroke. Early treatment is proven to preserve brain function and enhance recovery for each patient, said neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center.

  • April 2, 2014

    Researchers Set to Launch Phase 3 Trial for Parkinson’s

    A $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will support a new Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the drug isradipine as a potential new treatment for Parkinson's disease. The study is being co-lead by the University of Rochester and Northwestern University.

    Isradipine has been demonstrated to be safe and tolerable in patients with Parkinson's disease, said University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry neurologist Kevin Biglan, M.D., M.P.H., co-principal investigator of the study. This new study will determine whether the drug can be an effective tool in slowing the progression of the disease and could, thereby, complement existing symptomatic treatments and improve the quality of life of individuals with the disease.

  • March 28, 2014

    UR Medicine Helps Forge National Stroke Care Guidelines

    A new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people recovering from a severe stroke receive tailored and coordinated care that optimizes quality of life and minimizes suffering. The statement – which was published today in the journal Stroke – represents the first attempt to establish a fundamental set of recommendations that can help guide physicians, patients, and their families through the difficult decisions that arise from this condition.

    The majority of stroke patients require access to some form of palliative care, said Robert Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., the chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Accomplishing this requires that a hospital’s system of stroke care and its team of providers place the patient and their family at the center of the decision-making process and build a plan of care that is based on their values and informed by effective and constant communication.

  • March 27, 2014

    Stroke Survivors Deserve Team Care

    Palliative care that minimizes suffering and improves quality of life should be provided to patients who've survived a stroke, experts say. The care should be a team effort involving patients, families, stroke specialists and health care providers such as neurosurgeons, neurologists, primary care doctors, nurses and therapists, according to the new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA).

    The majority of stroke patients need access to some form of palliative medicine," statement lead author Dr. Robert Holloway, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., said in an AHA/ASA news release.

    The stroke team and its members can manage many of the palliative care problems themselves. It encourages patient independence and informed choices, he explained.

  • March 10, 2014

    Biomarker Points to Alzheimer’s Risk

    A study involving Rochester-area seniors has yielded the first accurate blood test that can predict who is at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. This discovery – which appears today in the journal Nature Medicine – could be the key to unlocking a new generation of treatments that seek to head off the disease before neurological damage becomes irreversible.

    The biomarker – which consists of 10 specific lipids found in blood plasma – predicted with greater than 90 percent accuracy which individuals would go on to develop Alzheimer's disease or a precursor condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). The cost of the simple blood test required to detect these lipids is a fraction of other techniques and, unlike alternatives, it identifies risk early in the disease process before cognitive symptoms appears.

    The ability to identify individuals who are at risk of developing Alzheimer's before the clinical manifestation of cognitive impairment has long been a Holy Grail of the neuromedicine community, said Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and lead author of the study. Current efforts to develop a treatment for this disease are coming up short because they are probably being used too late. Biomarkers that can allow us to intervene early in the course of the disease could be a game-changer.

  • February 26, 2014

    Dr. Laurie Seltzer Receives Award from Journal of Pediatric Neurology for the 2013 Best Paper

    The Department of Neurology is pleased and proud to announce that Dr. Laurie Seltzer, DO, Senior Instructor of Child Neurology and Epilepsy recently received an award from the editors of Pediatric Neurology for the best paper submitted in 2013 by a resident or fellow. The paper, Intraoperative EEG Predicts Postoperative Seizures in Infants with Congenital Heart Disease was published online on December 23rd 2013 and will also appear in a forthcoming print issue of the journal. The research was supported in part by a NIH Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (K12 NS 066098).

    In this prospective, observational study, Dr. Seltzer and her co-investigators reviewed preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative EEG of 32 infants who underwent cardiac surgery. Among 17 of the children, the surgery involved deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA). Specific intraoperative EEG patterns seen in two patients undergoing prolonged DHCA were predictive of postoperative seizure within 2 days after surgery. The results suggest that the intraoperative EEG may be used not only as a tool for monitoring current status during surgery, but also as a predictive tool to determine risk for postoperative seizure in infants undergoing surgery with DHCA.

    Dr. Seltzer’s accomplishment will be recognized at the 2014 Child Neurology Society Meeting in Columbus, OH.

  • February 4, 2014

    UR Medicine Recognized for Stroke Care, Launches Neurocritical Care Program

    Strong Memorial Hospital has been recognized by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. This designation, which has only been conferred on two other hospitals in New York State, places Strong among an elite group of institutions that provide highly-specialized complex stroke care.

    We are proud that the Joint Commission has recognized our dedicated team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, emergency department physicians, nurses, therapists, and staff, said neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., the medical director of the URMC Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center. This certification is a testament to their commitment to provide the highest and most comprehensive level of stroke care to our community.

  • January 11, 2014

    Goodnight. Sleep Clean.

    Sleep seems like a perfectly fine waste of time. Why would our bodies evolve to spend close to one-third of our lives completely out of it, when we could instead be doing something useful or exciting? Something that would, as an added bonus, be less likely to get us killed back when we were sleeping on the savanna?

    Sleep is such a dangerous thing to do, when you're out in the wild, Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish biologist who has been leading research into sleep function at the University of Rochester's medical school, told me. It has to have a basic evolutional function. Otherwise it would have been eliminated.

    To read more please see the NY Times article.

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