Neurology News

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  • December 13, 2011

    Some Muscular Dystrophy Patients at Increased Risk for Cancer

    People who have the most common type of adult muscular dystrophy also have a higher risk of getting cancer, according to a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    The team found that patients who have myotonic muscular dystrophy are at increased risk primarily for four types of cancer: brain, ovary, colon, and the uterine lining known as the endometrium. The team also found a possible increased risk for some other types of cancer, including cancer of the eye, thyroid, pancreas, and other female reproductive organs.

    Physicians estimate that approximately 40,000 Americans have myotonic dystrophy, an inherited disease that is marked by progressive muscle weakness. While the course of the disease varies from patient to patient, symptoms can include muscle stiffness, difficulty speaking and swallowing, problems walking, and in some patients, heart problems and cataracts.

  • November 14, 2011

    Routine Head Hits in School Sports May Cause Brain Injury

    The brain scans of high school football and hockey players showed subtle injury - even if they did not suffer a concussion – after taking routine hits to the head during the normal course of play, according to a University of Rochester Medical Center study.

    The research, reported online in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is preliminary, involving a small sample of athletes, but nonetheless raises powerful questions about the consequences of the mildest head injury among youths with developing brains, said lead author Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at URMC with a special interest in sports concussions.

  • November 2, 2011

    Scientists Explore Whether What Heals the Head Can Also Heal the Heart

    Handy Gelbard, Stephen Dewhurst, Burns Blaxall

    A diverse group of scientists – experts in cardiology, neurology, immunology, microbiology and chemistry – are teaming up to study drugs that show promise in the treatment of dementia for the treatment of an equally debilitating disease – heart failure. In this case, the connection between the head and the heart lies in a particular enzyme that they believe plays a role in the development of both conditions.

    The team, headed by Burns C. Blaxall, Ph.D., Harris A. “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., and Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., recently won the largest grant awarded to date by the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) – $250,000 over two years. The grant, part of the CTSI's newly initiated Incubator Program, is larger than most awarded by the Medical Center.

    Thomas Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., who heads the CTSI and helped develop the new program, says tremendous weight was given to forming new teams that had never worked together before, and for these teams to study things they had never addressed before. The Blaxall/Gelbard/Dewhurst team fit the bill on both counts.

  • October 27, 2011

    New Network Will Advance Neurological Care

    The University of Rochester Medical Center has been tapped by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to play a critical role in a new national initiative to accelerate the process of turning promising discoveries into new ways to treat neurological diseases.

    The complexity and often rare nature of diseases of the central nervous system present a unique set of challenges in terms of developing new treatments, said Robert Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Neurology at the Medical Center. This new initiative by the NIH will create the economies of scale and coordination necessary to rapidly and efficiently move novel therapies closer to the point where they can ultimately benefit patients.

  • October 17, 2011

    Dinner with the Doc

    The Epilepsy Foundation is celebrating with a series of Dinner with a Doc events. Each event will feature a neurologist giving a talk on epilepsy-specific topics, a question & answer period with the neurologist and other invited guests, and dinner. All events are free and open to the public, but please RSVP today at www.epilepsy-uny.org to reserve your spot as seats are limited.

  • October 13, 2011

    Neurologist’s Talk Aimed at Parkinson’s Patients, Caregivers

    A physician who specializes in treating patients with Parkinson's disease and related disorders will speak about the condition and take questions from patients, family members and caregivers in a free public talk next week.

    Michelle Burack, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, will speak from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Lifetime Care, 3111 S. Winton Road. The discussion is aimed especially at patients who have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's, along with family members, though all are welcome.

    The talk is part of a series of public discussions Burack has initiated across New York State, as part of educational outreach efforts through the Parkinson Support Group of Upstate New York. The talks are a way for Burack, who is part of a medical team that treats hundreds of patients with the disease, to educate people about Parkinson's and at the same time learn more about the disease, enabling her to treat patients more effectively. Three talks per year in the Rochester area are planned.

  • October 13, 2011

    Precision with Stem Cells a Step Forward for Treating M.S., Other Diseases

    Areas in red indicate mouse brain cells coated with myelin, a crucial substance lacking in patients with M.S.

    A diverse group of scientists – experts in cardiology, neurology, immunology, microbiology and chemistry – are teaming up to study drugs that show promise in the treatment of dementia for the treatment of an equally debilitating disease – heart failure. In this case, the connection between the head and the heart lies in a particular enzyme that they believe plays a role in the development of both conditions.

    The team, headed by Burns C. Blaxall, Ph.D., Harris A. “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., and Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., recently won the largest grant awarded to date by the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) – $250,000 over two years. The grant, part of the CTSI's newly initiated Incubator Program, is larger than most awarded by the Medical Center.

    Thomas Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., who heads the CTSI and helped develop the new program, says tremendous weight was given to forming new teams that had never worked together before, and for these teams to study things they had never addressed before. The Blaxall/Gelbard/Dewhurst team fit the bill on both counts.

  • October 4, 2011

    Has Your Brain Already Crystallized?

    As it turns out, keeping pace in ever-more-electronic world is no small feat for the aging brain. That's because our mental circuitry – the most frequently used neuron pathways, like well-traveled roads – tends to crystallize into a series of expressways over time. But that doesn't mean paving new paths (by, say, learning in middle age) is a lost cause – it just demands special learning techniques and a little more patience.

    That's heartening news for adults who are headed back to school, shifting careers in later life, or simply want to be lifelong learners, says neuropsychologist Dr. Mark Mapstone. In the clip below, he sheds more light on our amazing (and aging) brains.

  • September 27, 2011

    Stop Stroke Before it Stops You - 4 Things You Should Know

    Ask any number of men what they think their odds of having a stroke are, and you might find many of them believe stroke is frighteningly unpredictable and can attack like a bolt from the blue – without warning, trailing death and disability in its wake.

    That idea is dangerously wrong. The truth is that a stroke is the bullet at the end of a very long barrel and there is a lot you can do to dodge it.

    The path to stroke can be started by heart disease – especially if you have an irregular heartbeat. It also can be started by arterial disease – especially if there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries of the neck. The chain of events that begins with cardiovascular disease and ends in stroke can take years, or even decades to evolve. You probably will not know that it is happening.

  • September 20, 2011

    Need More Memory (No, We’re Not Talking RAM)

    Searching frantically for misplaced car keys. Fumbling for the name of a new acquaintance. Providing an accurate eye-witness testimony. Treasuring past moments with a loved one lost. What, exactly, is this thing we call “memory”? How do our brains manage to process, store and recall so much sensory footage – even lifeless data, like phone numbers – almost reflexively?

    Neuropsychologist Dr. Mark Mapstone co-directs URMC's memory care clinic, which features a team of neurologists, psychiatrists, a geriatrician, a neuropsychologist, a psychometrician (expert in measuring psychological function), a social worker and a nurse practitioner. He weighs in on these and other burning questions in the clip below.

  • September 7, 2011

    Stem Cell Efforts to Treat Neurological Disease Bolstered With $4.5 Million

    Human oligodendrocytes and astrocytes generated from human neural progenitor cells.

    The endeavor to find better treatments or perhaps even one day a cure for a host of debilitating and fatal neurological diseases has been bolstered by an influx of funding from a mix of private and public sources.

    he laboratory headed by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has received $4.5 million in new funding to further its efforts to use stem cells and related molecules to treat several feared disorders for which there are currently no cures – including multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, and fatal childhood diseases known as pediatric leukodystrophies.

  • July 29, 2011

    Event to Benefit Parkinson Disease Research

    A fundraising event to benefit research in Parkinson disease is being held in honor of a former Rochester resident who had the disease. Vicki Aspridy and Janice Corea are hosting Funk & Waffles for Parkinson's, featuring delicious waffles, live music, and more, in memory of their mother, Tarpa Aspridy, who had the disease late in life and passed away three years ago.

    Funds raised from the event will benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF). MJFF's mission is to discover a cure for Parkinson disease and develop improved therapies for those living with the condition today.

  • July 20, 2011

    Health Gains from MS Drugs Come at a High Price

    A new study shows that the health gains associated with a category of medications commonly used to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – know as disease modifying drugs – come at a very high cost when compared to therapies that address the symptoms of MS and treatments for other chronic diseases.

    The study – which appears today in the journal Neurology – analyzed data from 844 individuals with early stage MS and projected health care costs, including the cost of the drugs, and lost productivity over a 10 year period. The study found that while MS patients using disease- modifying drugs experience modest health gains, the cost associated with using these drugs is more than 8 times higher than what is considered reasonable from a health economics cost-effectiveness perspective.

    While it is clear that disease-modifying drugs are beneficial to some MS patients, those gains come at a tremendous economic cost, said Katia Noyes, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study. These results point to the need to continually evaluate the cost-effectiveness of new treatments in the interest of controlling health care costs.

  • July 14, 2011

    Is the Internet Replacing Your Memory?

    Google, Facebook, Internet Movie Database, and many other sources of information on the Internet are changing the way in which we remember. As a result of this instant access, growing numbers of us may actually be outsourcing our memories. It's called the Google effect and it is documented online in the journal Science.

    Google is just another form of external memory, says Betsy Sparrow, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Columbia University in New York City. Neuropsychologist Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., isn't sure the Google effect is such a good thing for our memories. This is not as good for us from a brain perspective, he says. If you download your information to a device, you are not using your brain to make connections as you should be. That said, When you don't burden your memory with rote remembering, it does free up activity for more complex thinking, he says.

  • July 13, 2011

    Two Rochester Scientists among Top Parkinson Researchers

    Two scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center are among the world's top researchers in the area of Parkinson disease, according to a recent study.

    Karl Kieburtz, M.D., M.P.H., and Kim Tieu, Ph.D., are among the researchers cited in a recent study published last month in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease. The study was done by Aaron Sorensen of GE Healthcare and publishing consultant David Weedon.

    The study analyzed the number of times a scientist's work has been cited by other scientists, the amount of new research that the person has published, and the ripple effect of the work in Parkinson disease as well as other areas.

    Both Kieburtz and Tieu are among the 100 scientists whose work has been cited most during the last decade by other scientists doing research on the disease. Also on the list is Ira Shoulson, M.D., a former University of Rochester neurologist who is now at Georgetown. Altogether, research by the three was cited more than 6,500 times during the last decade by other scientists.

  • May 31, 2011

    First Controlled Clinical Trial for Juvenile Batten Disease to Start

    After years of building hope for a treatment, Rochester researchers and clinicians will begin the first controlled clinical trial for Juvenile Batten disease this summer, thanks to $1 million in grants from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA). The trial will examine whether mycophenolate mofetil, a drug FDA-approved to suppress the immune system and prevent organ rejection in children, is safe for these children and whether it can slow or halt the progression of the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

    Families have been anxiously awaiting word on when we could launch this clinical trial, said Frederick Marshall, M.D., principal investigator of the trial and Associate Professor of Neurology. Juvenile Batten Disease is very rare, but the families are very close and well-informed about potential treatments. They have been watching the progress of this research and hoping for the day when we could launch the trial.

    Juvenile Batten disease is a lysosomal-storage disease that strikes seemingly healthy children and progressively robs them of their abilities to see, reason and move. It ultimately kills them in late adolescence or young adulthood. Batten disease is in the same family of diseases as Krabbe disease to which former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly lost his son, Hunter, in 2005.

  • April 4, 2011

    $10 Million Gift from Philip Saunders Advances URMC’s Neuromuscular Program, Other Initiatives

    E. Philip Saunders

    Philip Saunders, a Rochester businessman and a major supporter of the neuromuscular disease program at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has donated an additional $10 million – one of the largest gifts ever in the history of the Medical Center – for the program as well as other URMC research initiatives.

    The gift boosts dramatically one of the signature programs of the Medical Center – neuromedicine, an area in which its scientists and physicians excel in both patient care and research.

    Some of the funds will be used to support cancer research, particularly URMC's proposed research collaboration with Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. Saunders' support also boosts the University's commitment to clinical and translational science, accelerating the development of new treatments for many diseases based on discoveries in University of Rochester laboratories.

  • March 29, 2011

    US News & World Report Ranks URMC Hospital #1 in Metro Area

    The University of Rochester Medical Center's Strong Memorial Hospital has been ranked first in the greater Rochester area in US News & World Report's first-ever Best Regional Hospitals 2010-11 ranking. The new rankings, available today on the magazine's website (www.usnews.com/hospitals), include selected hospitals in 52 metropolitan areas with over one million residents.

    The Best Regional Hospitals listing recognizes hospitals that score within the top 25 percent of all 4,852 eligible hospitals ranked in at least one of 16 medical specialties. URMC's scores reached that high-performance threshold in 11 of 16 specialties, including cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, heart and heart surgery, kidney disorders, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pulmonology, and urology.

  • January 31, 2011

    Study: African Americans Have Better Stroke Survival Rates

    A study published today shows that African Americans have a better survival rate compared to whites after being hospitalized for a stroke. This conclusion contradicts prevailing wisdom and is one piece in a growing body of evidence that points to the important role that patients – and the decision they and their families make in terms of treatment – may play on mortality rates.

    The study found that – after adjusting data for variables such as age, socioeconomic status, and risk factors – that African Americans who were hospitalized for acute ischemic stroke had a significantly lower mortality rate than whites. The survival advantage was most pronounced early after the stroke but persisted for up to one year. The study also found that African Americans were also more likely during their hospitalization to have received more aggressive treatment measures, such as kidney dialysis, a tracheostomy, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were also less likely to use hospice care. These results were published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

    These results fly in the face of conventional wisdom that says that black patients with strokes have worse outcomes, said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Robert Holloway, M.D., M.P.H. a co-author of the study. Even though we do not know the exact reasons for these differences, these data highlight the potential importance of treatment intensity, and the expression of patient preference for different treatments on survival and mortality. This is not such a far-fetched idea for physicians who take care of a lot of stroke patients.

  • January 25, 2011

    Study: Get Thee to a Stroke Center

    Hospitals with designated stroke centers are associated with up to 20 percent higher survival rate for patients with ischemic stroke and significantly greater use of acute stroke therapy. That is the conclusion of a study appearing today in the Journal of the American Medical Association which compares treatment and outcomes in stroke care between hospitals in New York State.

    The basic premise of stroke centers and stroke care – that coordinated care delivered around a specific disease can likely improve outcomes – is widely accepted, said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Robert Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., a co-author of the study. However, there has been limited empirical evidence demonstrating that admission to a stroke center is associated with lower mortality. This study shows that designated stroke centers not only have a greater adherence to evidence based practices but they also save lives.

  • January 10, 2011

    Neuroscientist to Discuss Action Video Games as Learning Tool

    Daphne Bavelier, Ph.D.

    Cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier, Ph.D., will discuss her work using video games to explore the remarkable capacity of the brain to adapt as part of a lecture series highlighting biological and biomedical research at the University of Rochester.

    Bavelier will discuss her research this Friday, Jan. 14, in the Class of '62 Auditorium (Room G-9425) at the Medical Center. The talk, part of the “Second Friday Science Social” lecture series, is geared mainly to faculty, staff and students at the University, though the general public is welcome as well.

    Bavelier, professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, is an expert on the brain's ability to learn and adapt to an ever-changing environment. For the past decade, she has employed video games as a way to explore the brain's ability to adapt – a capability crucial for people trying to recover from a stroke or a traumatic brain injury or for people seeking to keep their mind as sharp as possible as they age.

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