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IoN News Archive (2009)

Brain disease "resistance gene" could offer insights into CJD

A community in Papua New Guinea that suffered a major epidemic of a CJD-like fatal brain disease called kuru has developed strong genetic resistance to the disease, according to new research by Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists, from the MRC Prion Unit in the UCL Institute of Neurology.

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Prof Elizabeth Fisher elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)

The Institute is delighted to congratulate Professor Elizabeth Fisher (Department of Neurodegenerative Disease) on her election to membership of EMBO.  EMBO membership comprises 1,420 of the world’s foremost molecular biologists and new members are elected annually on the basis of proven scientific excellence. Fifty scientists from the EMBO membership have received the Nobel Prize. 

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How the brain knows a dog is a dog: concept acquisition in the human brain


One of the defining characteristics of human intelligence is the ability to use prior knowledge when dealing with new situations through the development of 'concepts'. For example, we know that an animal that barks, has four legs, is furry and has a snout is likely to be a dog.

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Roads closed for powerful MRI scanner delivery


Roads were closed in central London on Saturday as a new high-powered, six tonne MRI scanner was installed at the UCL Institute of Neurology in Queen Square.

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Long-term risks lower for surgical treatment of carotid stenosis

The latest results from the longest-running study yet confirm that surgery is better than artery-opening angioplasty in preventing strokes caused by blockage of the carotid artery, the largest vessel carrying blood to the brain.

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Memorandum of collaboration signed

The Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy (DCEE), at the UCL Institute of Neurology, and the Stichting Epilepsie Instellingen Nederland (SEIN) have signed an important agreement to formalise their already very fruitful collaborations.

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PDS awards Training Fellowship to Institute of Neurology researcher to understand how the brain controls Parkinson’s symptoms

The Parkinson’s Disease Society (PDS) has awarded a Training Fellowship for just over £170,000 to Dr Ashwani Jha (Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders) to investigate what parts of the brain is associated with specific symptoms of Parkinson’s.
One of the important challenges for the future of Parkinson’s treatment is to tailor drugs and therapies for each individual with the condition. No two people with Parkinson's will have exactly the same symptoms, but we still don’t know the reason for this and what is the best way to optimise the treatment.

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Alan Thompson to lead UCL Partners Neurological Disorders theme

Professor Alan Thompson is to play a key role in the newly designated UCL Partners Academic Health Science Centre. Professor Thompson has been appointed Programme Director for the Neurological Disorders Theme ­ one of six initial world leading themes. He will continue as Director of the Institute and will be supported in this new role by Professor Anthony Schapira (Head Department of Clinical Neurosciences) and Professor Mike Hanna (Clinical Director of the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery) who he has appointed as co-directors of the theme.

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Queen Square leads on new UK recommendations for bladder management which can dramatically improve quality of life in Multiple Sclerosis


Professor Clare Fowler, (Uro-Neurology Department at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and the Institute Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation) lead an expert group which has published a consensus statement of best practice based on an assessment all the current evidence. Bladder problems are a common and distressing aspect of multiple sclerosis. Their management is currently erratic in the UK, although the problems are highly amenable to treatment. Many people with MS stand to benefit if these recommendations are widely adopted.

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John Hardy most-cited Alzheimer's disease researcher in the UK

With more than 23,000 citations in the period between January 1985 to April 2008, Professor John Hardy (Reta Lila Weston Institute of Neurological Studies) has been confirmed as the most highly cited author on Alzheimer's disease research in the UK and 5th internationally, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. * Professor Hardy published a total of 351 articles on Alzheimer's disease, making him the ninth most prolific in that same period.

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Drug study offers hope for Alzheimer's treatment

As reported in the Times by Mark Henderson: "A new approach to treating Alzheimer’s came closer when a drug was shown in tests to clear the brain of a damaging protein

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Drug study offers hope for Alzheimer’s treatment

As reported in the Times by Mark Henderson: "A new approach to treating Alzheimer’s came closer when a drug was shown in tests to clear the brain of a damaging protein
A new approach to treating Alzheimer’s passed its first clinical test when a drug developed by scientists was shown to clear the brain of a damaging protein linked to the disease.

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Professor George du Boulay CBE, FRCR, FRCP

It is with great regret that we inform you of the death, yesterday, of Professor George du Boulay CBE, FRCR, FRCP. George du Boulay was Professor of Neuroradiology at the Institute of Neurology and Head of the Lysholm Department of Radiology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery from 1975 until 1984. He played a major role in the clinical and academic life of Queen Square and was actively engaged in research until the mid 90’s. He was a long serving and very active Trustee of the National Hospital Development Foundation, becoming vice-president of the organisation in 2004. He was also Editor in Chief of NeuroRadiology for 17 years from 1974 until 1991.

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Professor John Hardy joins the ranks of science greats

Professor John Hardy (Reta Lila Weston Institute of Neurological Studies & the Department of Molecular Neuroscience) has been recognised for his exceptional contribution to science with his election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, it was announced today (Friday 15 May). Fellows of the UK's national academy of science are leaders in the fields of science, engineering and medicine and Professor Hardy joins seven other Fellows at Queen Square, and the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.

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Parkinson's-linked mutation makes neurons vulnerable to calcium-induced death

A new study reveals the mechanism by which a genetic mutation linked with Parkinson's disease (PD) renders dopamine neurons particularly vulnerable to cell injury and death. The research is published by Cell Press in the March 13th issue of the journal Molecular Cell. PD is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a specific loss of dopamine neurons. Several genes have been linked with inherited forms of PD. Many of these genes encode proteins that are targeted to mitochondria, tiny intracellular "power plants" that metabolize oxygen and generate energy. Mitochondria also play a major role in maintaining appropriate calcium levels inside of cells. Abnormal calcium levels can be toxic to neurons and are associated with a range of neurodegenerative diseases.

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'Mind-Reading' Experiment Highlights How Brain Records Memories

It may be possible to "read" a person's memories just by looking at brain activity, according to research carried out by Wellcome Trust scientists. In a study published today in the journal Current Biology, they show that our memories are recorded in regular patterns, a finding which challenges current scientific thinking. Demis Hassabis and Professor Eleanor Maguire at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) have previously studied the role of a small area of the brain known as the hippocampus which is crucial for navigation, memory recall and imagining future events. Now, the researchers have shown how the hippocampus records memory.

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UCL Partners is one of UK’s first Academic Health Science Centres

UCL Partners (UCLP) has today been designated as one of the UK’s first academic health science centres (AHSC), strengthening UCL’s position as Europe’s leading health research powerhouse. The Partnership is one of just five bids which satisfied the Department of Health’s rigorous selection process, demonstrating that it possessed excellence in research, education and patient care.

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Anti-malaria drug does not appear to help with human prion diseases.

Reported by Reuters -"The anti-malaria drug quinacrine does not appear to extend the lives of people with the human form of mad cow disease, despite encouraging results from experiments with mice, British researchers said on Tuesday. Their study of 107 volunteers showed some people who took the drug showed some improvement but that it was not possible to tell whether this was due to the medicine, researchers said.

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"Opening doors for patients with MS"

A profile of the Director of the Institute, Professor Alan Thompson, features in the current issue of The Lancet Neurology.

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Are we as decisive as we think?

Internal choices are weaker than those dictated by the outside world The underlying sense of being in control of our own actions is challenged by new research from UCL (University College London) which demonstrates that the choices we make internally are weak and easily overridden compared to when we are told which choice to make.

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"Magnets stop the nightmare of tinnitus, researchers say."

Research carried out by Professor John Rothwell, in the Institute's Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience & Movement Disorders and reported in the Daily Mail reveals the benefits of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in easing the symptoms of tinnitus. "A study has found that all patients given the treatment experienced some improvement; a year afterwards, some patients were still tinnitus-free in one or both ears. Tinnitus is the sensation of a sound in the ear, usually a ringing noise, though it can be a high-pitched whistling or buzzing or hissing. ..."

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Prestigious award for Professor Hugh Bostock

The Institute is delighted to congratulate Professor Hugh Bostock on being awarded the highly prestigious Grey Walter Medal by the British Society for Clinical Neurophysiology, in recognition of his distinguished contribution to Clinical Neurophysiology. He will also deliver the Grey Walter invited lecture at the scientific meeting of the Society in October 2009. The medal is seldom awarded, but, for example was given to Mary Brazier the pioneering electroencephalographer.

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Untangling the Brain

Younger brains better than old in clearing Alzheimer’s-related protein, study finds. Younger brains are more effective than older brains at getting rid of abnormal amounts of tau protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease – a mechanism that may be partly explained by a better stress response in the young, a mouse-model study led by researchers at the University of South Florida found.

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