May is ALS Awareness Month

May is a month of renewal. The landscape turns green again. Flowers add splashes of color to nature’s palate. Critters in hibernation much of the preceding months are seen venturing out and enjoying the newfound warmth.

May is also ALS Awareness Month. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and denotes a relentlessly progressive group of disorders that, sometimes quite rapidly and sometimes more slowly but always unfairly destroys the motor system in the spinal cord and brain that enables the muscles to move. ALS robs healthy people of their ability to walk, lift a cup, speak so they can be heard and understood, and, eventually, eat and breathe.

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A Look at WHY Underrepresented Populations Leave Neuroscience Research

In “Factors that Influence Career Choice Among Different Populations of Neuroscience Trainees,” published recently in eNeuro, NINDS program director Lauren Ullrich, Ph.D., and fellow authors bring to light many issues about why women and individuals from underrepresented populations leave the neuroscience field at rates higher than men and Whites. They are less often first authors of papers, publish in journals with lower impact factors, and less often submit grants through the “special,” more honorific mechanisms NIH has to offer.

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Stroke Awareness Month: May 2021

As I look out the window of the room in my home in which I have been working for over a year, it is hard to believe how green the trees have become!  But Spring is truly here, and if it’s May, it must be Stroke Awareness Month.  Over the past decade, NIH and its government, nonprofit, and hospital partners and scientists and health care providers around the country have worked to make people everywhere aware of the risks and dangers of stroke; help people lower their blood pressure and cholesterol; design and test better drugs and devices to treat heart rhythm disturbances and prevent the blood clots they cause; and implement methods for dissolving or pulling out clots in blood vessels in the brain.  Accordingly, age-adjusted stroke rates and death rates from stroke have decreased over the past decade in both men and women and for all races and ethnicities.  But lest we think we don’t have to worry about stroke anymore, we still have lots of work to do!

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Be Mindful of the Past and UNITE for the Future

For my birthday this past year, my husband bought me a book by Jill Lepore entitled These Truths – a nearly 1,000-page tome that tells the history of the United States, although describing it that way sells this wonderful book vastly short. What These Truths does is tell the complicated, messy, and intertwined stories of the people who collectively enacted and constituted the history of the United States. Like many, I read for pleasure only as I am falling off to sleep at night. This means it will be at least a few more months before I finish the book! But now, more than halfway through it, one thing is horrifyingly clear: slavery, persecution, hate crime, the advantage of assimilation and the deadly disadvantage of being identifiable as “other” have pervaded the history of this country since before its inception through the present day. To be sure, and somewhat reassuringly vis-à-vis the very humanity of the human race, outspoken and courageous opposition of people who viewed this to be wrong began almost as soon as the first enslaved person stepped on our shores. But too often, economics and xenophobia won out.

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NINDS Aims to Address URGenT Need for Gene Therapies

Recent successes of therapies aimed at replacing, blocking, or changing the reading of genes—referred to as gene therapy—have made real the prospect of improving outcomes for people with rare diseases.  In September 2019, NINDS held a workshop entitled “Next Generation Strategies for Gene-Targeted Therapies of Central Nervous System Disorders” to brainstorm with scientists, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and patient advocates about the best ways of getting these cutting-edge treatments into the hands of doctors and scientists to help improve the lives of patients living with rare diseases.

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