Posts Tagged ‘neuroscience’

Brain Awareness Week: A Festival for the Brain

Every year, in March, international Brain Awareness Week features educational activities all over the world, organized by local partners under the umbrella of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, and this year it takes place March 14-20. Last year, we wrote a piece describing Brain Awareness Week and why on earth we need such a thing. The short answer is: because the brain is infinitely complex and with new discoveries coming at fast pace, it’s hard to keep up! This year, we took on Brain Awareness Week in our home state of Rhode Island, and we created Brain Week RI, with the help of many dedicated people who are interested in brains—neuroscientists, neurologists (no, they’re not the same thing), artists, college students, mental health providers, and a bunch of people who […]

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George Mason Students Start Cure Alliance Campus Chapter

Students at George Mason University (GMU) have rallied to Cure Alliance’s mission of education and advocacy and recently launched the inaugural campus chapter of Cure Alliance, Cure Mental Illness (CMI) GMU. Mason has responded enthusiastically. Within a few short weeks of establishing the group, over a hundred undergraduate and graduate students from disciplines including Neuroscience, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work, and Global & Community Health contacted CMI to ask how they could contribute. Our members are energetic, bright, motivated, and bring diverse experiences to the table. Many are currently engaged in research projects, have worked as clinicians in mental health care, or are active participants of community groups that support mental health. Many have been personally affected by mental illness and see the organization as a means to positively impact their lives and alleviate the suffering of loved ones. Opportunities for CMI members abound. At Mason, students can directly participate in […]

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Research Focus: Bipolar Disorder in a Dish

A research study has used a new cellular model to see “inside” the brains of people with bipolar disorder. We can’t always see what we want to see inside the bodies of living people, despite all the technology we have for looking—from X-ray to MRI to endoscopy.  In particular, our methods for looking at living people’s brains are pretty limited. One of the common ways around this, especially when we want to learn about a disorder affecting humans is to study a model of the illness. Animal models are the most common—say, a mouse or rat that has been subjected to stress or trauma and shows signs of anxiety or depression. Such models are somewhat limited since we can’t ask the animal how it is feeling, and because rodent behavior is much less complicated than human behavior. A cellular model is another option—a cell that can be grown in the […]

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How Close Are We to Cures?

A good question We recently received the following email: hi there, i was wondering how close we are to cures for mental illnesses like ocd, depression and schizophrenia. I wish there were a simple answer to this question – something like “Really close!” or “We’ll have cures next year.” But the truth is more complex, and probably comes in several parts. We are closer to cures than we were before In part one of the answer, we could compare our search for cures to where we were in 1887, when Emil Kraepelin identified schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as separate and distinct disorders (though he gave them different names than the ones we use today), and in a sense founded the modern study of mental illnesses. Kraepelin believed that there was a biological brain basis to mental illnesses, though he couldn’t possibly know what it was, given that the field of neuroscience […]

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Research Focus: Cognitive Impairment in Schizophrenia

The hidden symptoms of schizophrenia Cognitive deficits are the less dramatic and less known, but equally disabling symptoms that accompany psychosis for many people living with schizophrenia. Most people with schizophrenia experience problems with basic cognition—the mental functions that help us perform even simple tasks of everyday life. These symptoms can make it hard to live independently, have a job or go to school, or socialize with others. For most, the auditory hallucinations or delusions of psychosis can be treated with varying degrees of success and side effects, using medications. But there is virtually no treatment available to address the cognitive impairments of schizophrenia. (The exception may be the drug clozapine, which some researchers are convinced can improve cognition, even if it is only relatively small boost.) And unlike psychosis, cognitive impairment does not come and go, or get better over time, but seems to remain pretty constant. (Cognitive impairment […]

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Exploring the Final Frontier: Brain Awareness Week

The human brain is responsible for amazing things – from space travel to skyscrapers, from epic poems to cures for a host of formerly deadly diseases. What it hasn’t done so well at, so far, is understanding itself. Actually, it is only by comparison to our knowledge about other things—how our hearts work, or how life formed on our planet—that our understanding of the brain falls a bit short. Though there’s a lot we still don’t understand, we have learned quite a bit about our brains, especially over the last 100 years, thanks to the hard work of pioneering scientists who developed new tools to explore below the microscopic level. Today is the first day of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2015, celebrating their work, and the ongoing work that continues to increase our understanding of our brain—the incredibly complex organ that defines us has humans. This is the 20th BAW, […]

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At the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Cure Alliance Debuts to the Neuroscience Community Every year, Cure Alliance co-founder Hakon Heimer goes to the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in his capacity as editor of the online Schizophrenia Research Forum. SfN is the organization linking neuroscientists from all over the world—at the annual meeting, you can mingle with over 30,000 other people, most of them brain researchers. For the past couple of years, our other founder Robin Cunningham has joined him for an exhilarating and exhausting few days. This year, Cure Alliance had an added presence—we joined 711 other exhibitors at the meeting, to introduce our organization to brain researchers and learn from them. We joined Autism Speaks as the only mental illness organization there (there were also 3 Alzheimer’s groups). In the small section reserved for nonprofit organizations, we collected signatures for our petition for more mental illness research funding, and talked with researchers and others about how […]

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Too Good To Be True? Debate about the Latest Schizophrenia Research

Treating mental illnesses like schizophrenia or autism, where symptoms range widely, would be much easier if doctors had diagnostic tests—tests that could tell them if two people who have overlapping but also different symptoms have the same disorder, or tests that could tell them which medications will work best for which person. Recently, a study claiming that schizophrenia can be subdivided into at least eight genetic subtypes has garnered a lot of media attention. It’s easy to see why: if schizophrenia can be distilled into subtypes, each underpinned by different genetics, we might be closer to understanding the disorder and developing more personalized treatments. However, the study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry on September 15, has been roundly criticized by others in the psychiatric genetics community, who fault the researchers for publically promoting results that others view as preliminary and in need of scrutiny and more study. If […]

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Cure Alliance Hits the Big Apple for Brain Week

by Hakon Heimer New York City is the epicenter of Brain Awareness Week, sponsored by the Dana Alliance on Brain Initiatives, a yearly celebration of the 3-pound organ that runs the show. I made the trek to the Big Apple to join Cure Alliance for Mental Illness cofounder Robin Cunningham and local volunteer Elliott Koch for some of the BraiNY events at the invitation of organizer Heather McKellar of the New York University Neuroscience Institute. At the March 12 NYU Brain Fair, an incredible range of people from elementary school kids to senior citizens came by to see real brain slices, participate in educational games and attend lectures on brain health. Particularly popular were lectures on Staying Sharp and Enhancing Memory: Fact or Fiction? Elliott and I spent the afternoon talking with people about the need for more research into mental illness and collecting signatures for our petition to the […]

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Research Priorities at NIMH

by Robin Cunningham On February 8, 2013, I attended the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) Alliance for Research Progress Meeting held at NIMH Headquarters in the Neuroscience Center, Rockville, MD.  The purpose of these semi-annual meetings is to assist advocacy organizations in staying abreast of current and on-going research into the causes, treatments, prevention and cures for the various brain disorders, including mental illnesses, for which they advocate. The organizations at the meeting represent a wide array of brain disorders, but Cure Alliance for Mental Illness was the only non-profit in attendance that focuses its efforts entirely on advocating for increased funding for research for all mental illnesses. More information about this February 8th meeting, including an agenda, a summary of the presentations made, and a list of attendees, is available at the NIMH website. Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the NIMH, gave a presentation entitled “The State […]

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