‘Brain Gain’ Ahead for UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute

From left: Joseph Broderick, MD, Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, and James Herman, PhD. Photo by Cindy Starr.

The University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute is on the verge of a major “brain gain,” with an impending influx of more than 16 neuroscience specialists.

“We have a large group of new people, and more are on the way,” said Joseph Broderick, MD, Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, last week at a reception for the Institute’s clinicians, researchers and associates.

The new clinicians represent specialties across the Institute’s centers and programs, from stroke, epilepsy and neurocritical care, to disorders related to movement, muscles, memory and mood.

Dr. Broderick also named three new associate directors of the institute:

•    James Herman, PhD, Associate Director of Basic Science Research
•    Daniel Woo, MD, MS, Associate Director of Clinical Research
•    Mario Zuccarello, MD, Associate Director of Clinical Care

Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, who is moving to a new leadership post at UC Health after five years as the Institute’s administrative director, presented statistics that demonstrate the Institute’s strong performance in neurology and neurosurgery. Although UC did not rank in the top 20 in neurology/neurosurgery in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014-2015 Best Hospitals rankings, it was commended as “high performing” and achieved statistics in some areas that were superior to those who were ranked in the top 20.

When lined up against these top 20 neurology/neurosurgery programs, UC ranked:

•    No. 11 in patient volume
•    No. 1 in length-of-stay index
•    No. 8 in 30-day readmissions
•    No. 11 in mortality index

In other highlights of the annual reception:

Neurobiology Research Center

Dr. Herman, right, Director of the newly formed Neurobiology Research Center, praised the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s heightened emphasis on “discovery research,” which he said is a critical part of the Institute’s mission. “Our goal is to foster growth of basic and translational research across entire UC community,” Dr. Herman said. “We aim to develop partnerships between basic scientists and clinical scientists so that we can move molecular discoveries to animal models and then potential treatments, therapies and biomarkers.”

A pilot neuroscience program currently supports four to six $25,000 research projects each year. Dr. Herman expects that number to grow as the program builds critical mass with the help of new high-profile scientists. Preliminary data acquired through the small research grants can be used to pursue larger research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense and entities such the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the American Brain Tumor Association.

Center for Imaging Research

Richard Komoroski, PhD, above, Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience and Associate Director of the Center for Imaging Research, presented announced the acquisition of an exciting new technology: the Bruker Advance III HD NMR Spectrometer. The spectrometer, which features a 9.4T magnet, was funded through a grant from NIH.

“The NMR spectrometer is an instrument used by chemists to move into MRI field forward,” Dr. Komoroski said. “It is a very versatile system that will give us a number of capabilities in terms of basic and translational research. It gives us the ability to study intact tissue without having to dissolve the tissue or extract the metabolites.”

Such tissue could come in the form of a tumor biopsy from a patient. It also could involve a brain lesion in a rodent that is living (but anesthetized).

Seizures and Stress: The SMILE Study

Michael Privitera, MD, above, Medical Director of the UC Epilepsy Center, discussed progress made in the Stress Management for Living with Epilepsy (SMILE) study, a novel attempt to understand stress as a seizure trigger. “This is the first blinded, randomized, controlled trial of stress reduction in epilepsy, and it will result in the largest data set ever acquired for seizure prediction,” Dr. Privitera said. “Pre-emptive treatment is a future goal.”

Research by Dr. Privitera and his team has shown that of people who say stress causes their seizures, 21 percent are able to predict when seizures will occur.  Learn more >>

— Cindy Starr

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