Diseases of the nervous system can degrade higher brain functions in ways that devastate the lives of individuals and their families and, since most appear in the elderly, they are creating an ever increasing burden on society as life expectancy increases and our population ages.
The Brain Health Initiative is addressing some of these diseases in novel ways by building upon existing strengths in the basic underpinnings of nervous system disorders and by partnering with new leadership and initiatives that are expanding research efforts in the clinical neuroscience departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry in the Alpert Medical School.
This research focus has important connections to Brown’s affiliated hospitals and the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute. A coordinated Brain Health initiative across these institutions is stimulating new initiatives in basic, translational and clinical research, and will enhance the overall strength in clinical training and care at the medical school. The Institute for Brain Science is focusing on two areas related to Brain Health:
Basic mechanisms of brain disorders. Many disparate brain disorders, such as autism, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia, may share related molecular and genetic underpinnings. Some appear to have common mechanisms through which neurons degenerate, others share problems in the way neurons communicate through their chemical and electrical connections, called synapses. Brown researchers are poised to make major advances by revealing fundamental mechanisms common to many degenerative or synaptic disorders. This approach has the potential to lead to a few common solutions for a wide range of disorders or unexpected new treatments for a particular disease. Through new collaborations with clinicians and clinical researchers we are creating pathways for moving these discoveries toward the clinic where they can benefit patients.
Clinical application of cutting edge medical device therapies. Brown also is a home for leaders who are applying cutting edge technology to restore brain function. The BrainGate program aims to help patients with paralysis, while other programs address a range of issues related to Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Brown is a leader in new therapies using implanted brain stimulators to treat movement disorders and intractable mental health problems like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is also at the cutting edge of using transcranial magnetic stimulation as a therapy for depression. Combining our existing research and clinical expertise in these areas with new initiatives in Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry is putting Brown on a path to world-leading excellence, and to building a reputation that will benefit and attract patients.