The headline doesn’t refer to the fact that Seattle is full of brainy people (like me). Rather, I am discovering that Seattle is a hotbed of brain research. This research covers everything from how children learn to neurological pathologies such as Alzheimer’s or autism. The more neurological research, the more the odds improve for a Parkinson’s cure. And what great synergy to have all these brainy (pun intended) people in one city, exchanging ideas and research conclusions!
Check out this link for interviews with two brain research leaders in Seattle, done 2/28/13 by Marcie Sillman, a reporter for the local NPR affiliate, KUOW. The “news peg” was President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to launch a 10-year committment to map the human brain.
—Dr. Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer for the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In 2003, former Microsoft mogul Paul Allen provided seed money to kick start research on the “Allen Human Brain Atlas”. His commitment is up to a mind-boggling half-a-billion dollars now, which has funded an impressive roster of talent. The institute’s main research objective is to characterize and catalogue human brain cells and brain circuitry in a comprehensive “Atlas”. The precursor “Allen Mouse Brain Atlas” was completed in a mere three years (in 2006).
—Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director at the UW Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (“I-LABS”). -LABS’s focus is understanding how children learn, and how the brain is (literally) shaped from birth until school starts. In 2010, I-LABS launched the Developing Mind Project, a multi-year research initiative intended to describe brain development in children. I-LABS uses the MEG brain imaging device, a one-ton machine which can safely map mental activity of an infant only a few days old. In 2010, University of Washington purchased one of the few MEG machines in the country and the only one in the world with measures for infants. (MEG stands for magnetoencephalography, a (very) high tech way to measure electromagnetic currents from brain activity. )
As for neurological research in Seattle specifically focused on Parkinson’s, research groups include:
—Pacific Northwest Udall Center (PANUC) is one of 14 Udall centers across the country conducting Parkinson’s resear ch. See my posting re the research trial I participated in. University of Washington and the Veterans’ Hospital both participate in the research at the center. PANUC’s focus is on on cognitive impairment, genetic research, and — one of the Holy Grails of Parkinson’s research — finding biomarkers so the disease can be objectively diagnosed and measured.