Connecting Cognitive and Movement Disorders

Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D., is a scientist, lecturer, and clinician in the University of Michigan Cognitive Barmada labDisorders Program. He was recently in the news for the discoveries that he made in the laboratory with his colleagues in California and the United Kingdom. Their research findings focused on a protein, TDP43, which accumulates in the brains of individuals with ALS and dementia. We had a chance to sit down with Dr. Barmada to understand more about the connection between ALS, dementia and other related diseases.

You are a clinician in the U-M Cognitive Disorders Program but your research focuses on ALS. Are cognitive disorders related to ALS?

The short answer is yes. Years ago, we believed that ALS was a disorder that only affected movement, Continue reading

Four Key Questions on Parkinson’s Disease

As we continue to remember comedian and actor Robin Williams, and in light of the recently shared news of his being diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease, we sat down with William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group to understand more about Parkinson’s and its potential connection with depression.

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which there is a progressive death of brain cells, also known as neurodegeneration. The loss of these neurons, which takes place most prominently in areas of the brain that control movement, leads to the characteristic symptoms of the disease: slowness of movement, soft voice, tremors, and difficulties with posture and gait, leading to devastating falls. It is increasingly appreciated, however, that the neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease affects the brain widely, leading to many other “non-motor”symptoms – the most feared of which is dementia, but that also includes symptoms such as depression, pain, abnormal sweating, and sleep disturbances.

Is there a cure for Parkinson’s?

No, neurons that use the chemical transmitter dopamine are particularly important for the symptoms of Continue reading

Detour Ahead: Your Journey road sign for dementia or memory loss

DetourLife is a journey. The Detour Ahead road sign acknowledges that dementia or memory loss significantly alters a person’s journey through life. Other road sign tips for living with memory loss will be introduced over the next few months.

Just as detours are not a normal, expected part of your daily commute or family road trip, dementia is not a normal part of aging. As you age, a few changes can be expected such as:

  • Increase in forgetfulness. The older we are, the more we have learned and have to remember.  It is normal to become more forgetful after age 50.
  • Slowing of response times
  • Decline in vision and hearing abilities
  • Increased cautiousness

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Of mice and muscles: Dystonia discovery may help patients

Persistent team of U-M scientists study neurological condition that twists muscles of kids and adults

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Twist and hold your neck to the left. Now down, and over to the right, until it hurts.

Now imagine your neck – or arms or legs – randomly doing that on their own, without you controlling it.

That’s a taste of what children and adults with a neurological condition called dystonia live with every day – uncontrollable twisting and stiffening of neck and limb muscles.

The mystery of why this happens, and what can prevent or treat it, has long puzzled doctors, who have struggled to help their suffering dystonia patients.

But a persistent team of University of Michigan scientists have finally opened the door to a new way of answering those questions and developing new options for patients.

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Get your head in the game: Concussion and kids

Rapid diagnosis & proper care can help young athletes bounce back, says U-M expert

Maggie McDonald

16-year-old soccer player Maggie McDonald is back in the game after a concussion last summer

Today, the White House hosted a summit on concussions in youth sports, drawing national attention to the importance of preventing and properly treating brain injuries in kids and teens.

Among the experts selected to take part: U-M concussion expert Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., head of the U-M NeuroSport clinic. He and his team focus solely on diagnosing and managing concussions and other brain and nerve issues in athletes of all levels.

Just hours before he left for Washington, he cleared yet another young concussion patient to return to the sport she loves. He says she’s a great example of how proper concussion care can help many patients get back in the game.

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Baby blues & beyond: New ways to help new moms with depression

From talk therapy to yoga, U-M team offers care and a chance to help others through research

Postpartum depression affects many women in the first months after a baby is born.

Postpartum depression affects many women in the first months after a baby is born.

They’re supposed to be the happiest times of your life, right? But being pregnant or a new mom can have a dark side – temporary or lasting depression.

How quickly you get help, and what kind of help you get, for symptoms like moodiness, insomnia and loss of appetite can make a big difference for you and your baby.

Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., who leads a University of Michigan clinic focused on mental health during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life, offers more information on this important issue. May is the awareness month for these issues.

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