Tickle your thalamus with a touch of TMS

13 March 2006

Are you hip to your hippocampus? Is your somatosensory cortex seeking stimulation? UCL (University College London) has a square full of scientists to tickle your thalamus during Brain Awareness Week, along with a website to test your music listening ability.

On Tuesday 14 March 2006, a Student Symposium is being hosted at the UCL Institute of Neurology in Queen Square, London. A poster competition of current and proposed research by postgraduate students will take place in the morning, covering work on epilepsy, brain injury, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke and movement disorders.

In the afternoon, Baroness Susan Greenfield will give a lecture at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square on ‘What hope in the future for combating neurodegeneration?’

On Wednesday 15 March 2006, at the Dana Centre in South Kensington, London, UCL neurosurgeon Professor Marwan Hariz and neurologist Dr Patricia Limousin will discuss deep brain stimulation (DBS), a radical method to treat brain disorders such as dystonia and Parkinson’s disease. In DBS, electrodes are implanted in the brain and deliver controlled electrical signals to alleviate the symptoms (such as tremors) of Parkinson’s and dystonia.

The talk will be attended by patients who have been treated with DBS, including Amy Westall and renowned chef Fergus Henderson, who are among 90 patients successfully treated at the Unit of Functional Neurosurgery at the UCL Institute of Neurology, with surgery performed at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. The Unit is supported by the Parkinson’s Appeal and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Prof Hariz holds the Edmond J. Safra Chair in Functional Neurosurgery at UCL.

Professor Roger Lemon, Director of the UCL Institute of Neurology, says: “Queen Square hosts a vast range of research, using fMRI brain scanning and other novel technology such as trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to explore the human brain. We are also trying to understand how new treatments, such as DBS, work to extend and improve therapy for patients suffering from neurological disease.”

“Our brain is possibly the most complex and mystifying organ we possess, but thanks to the many techniques being developed here and across the world, this is the century in which mankind will map the human brain.”

Mrs Lily Safra, Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, says: “The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation is honoured to support cutting-edge brain research at some of the world's leading universities and research institutes. We are proud to be associated with Professor Marwan Hariz's wonderful team at UCL's Unit of Functional Neurosurgery, and we are confident that they will continue to help people reclaim a decent quality of life following a debilitating and distressing disease."

Can you sing Happy Birthday in tune? You might think so, but your nearest and dearest might beg to differ. At the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Dr Lauren Stewart is running an on-line experiment to study tone-deafness.

Several percent of the population are deaf to large changes in pitch. They can’t sing in tune, but are completely oblivious to their duff notes. These sufferers have what is known as amusia - to them, one tune sounds pretty similar to the next and listening to music becomes a pointless, even unpleasant chore.

To find out how your musical listening scores, go to www.delosis.com/listening

Notes for Editors:

1. For more information, please contact Jenny Gimpel at the UCL Media Relations Office on +44 (0)207 679 9739, mobile +44 (0)7990 675 947, out-of-hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk

2. Colour images of the human brain are available from the UCL Media Relations Office.

3. Demonstrations of trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – where journalists can experience TMS for themselves - can be arranged via the UCL Media Relations Office.

4. A study on language and the brain is recruiting volunteers (aged over 40) to have their brain scanned on Sunday 19 March 2006. For more information please contact Dr Jenny Crinion at the UCL Institute of Neurology on j.crinion@fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk, tel: 020 7833 7472.

5. Journalists who wish to attend the Queen Square Symposium should contact Anoushka de Almeida at the UCL Institute of Neurology on tel: 020 7837 3611 ext 4270, e-mail: a.dealmeida@ion.ucl.ac.uk. The poster session on Tue 14 March will run from 10.30am to 1pm and the guest lecture will begin at 2pm.

6. Journalists who wish to attend the Dana Centre event should visit http://www.danacentre.org.uk/ or contact Elaine Snell, Snell Communications, on tel: 020 7738 0424, email elaine@snell-communications.net. The event on Wed 15 March will run from 7pm to 8.30pm and will be broadcast on the internet.

7. More information on The Parkinson’s Appeal can be found at www.parkinsonsappeal.com.

8. The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery is part of UCLH NHS Foundation Trust and is a leading centre for the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with a wide range of neurological conditions. It works closely with the Institute of Neurology to turn research into treatment for the benefit of patients.