Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases – New Home for Medical Advances

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 6, 2015

The Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases will soon move to the Brigham Building for the Future.

Today, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer from complex neurologic diseases. In recent years, however, researchers have made significant advances in their understanding of these conditions. To leverage this progress, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has developed the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. Led by Co-Directors Howard L. Weiner, MD, and Dennis J. Selkoe, MD, the Center is a collaborative, global effort designed to accelerate treatment, prevention, and cures for five of the world’s most complex neurologic diseases – multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors.

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Brigham and Women’s Hospital Makes the Honor Roll

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 3, 2013

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals, ranking ninth. The Honor Roll highlights just 18 hospitals, out of nearly 5,000 nationwide, for their breadth and depth of clinical excellence.  We’ve gathered some recent blog posts from our ranked clinical categories to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our doctors, nurses, researchers, and others.

#2 Gynecology

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports women through all stages of their lives – from planning a family to childbirth, menopause, and beyond.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: Hydrocephalus Mimics Dementia

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 2, 2013

Hydrocephalus is characterized by walking difficulty, trouble with bladder control, and dementia.

After college, raising a family, and building a successful business, Susan and Rick Sontag were living normal lives until things took an unexpected turn. One morning in 1994, Susan awoke with a serious headache. She was confused and unable to remember simple things. After a series of tests, Susan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In an attempt to save her life, Susan underwent an experimental treatment. Miraculously, she survived. As a result of their experience, Susan and Rick started The Sontag Foundation, which has given over $40 million to support brain tumor research and other worthy causes.

But Susan’s miraculous victory appeared to have come at a high personal cost. Over the years following her treatment, she developed increasing difficulty walking and eventually required the use of canes and wheelchairs. Although she lost much of her short-term memory at the time the brain tumor was discovered, her family, friends, and doctors noticed a continuing decline in her other cognitive skills. Everyone assumed that her symptoms were side-effects of her brain tumor treatment and that nothing more could be done.

That was until a January 2013 scientific retreat, sponsored by The Sontag Foundation. Rick and Susan sat next to Dr. Mark Johnson, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital brain tumor neurosurgeon and scientist whose research had been supported by the Sontag Foundation nearly ten years earlier. Dr. Johnson too had observed Susan’s slow decline over the years; however, at the scientific retreat she seemed more affected than ever. Dr. Johnson recognized a pattern in her symptoms and asked Rick if she had ever been screened for a common but little known disorder called normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). She had not.

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Concerns about Memory Loss May Identify Alzheimer’s Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2013

What's the difference between an attention lapse and memory loss?

Have you ever had trouble remembering the names of unfamiliar people? Those of us in middle age and beyond may wonder if this is a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rebecca Amariglio, from the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some insight into the differences between lapses of attention, a normal part of aging, and memory loss, a sign of something more serious.

“Lapses of attention include walking into a room and forgetting why you walked in. This is likely a part of normal aging. Memory loss is categorized as a decline in the ability to recall conversations, remember appointments, or remember recent events,” notes Dr. Amariglio. Memory loss can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Women’s Sleep Across a Lifetime

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 25, 2013

There are things that women of all ages can do to get a good night's sleep.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Sandra Horowitz, a neurologist who specializes in sleep disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Women lead busy lives: we work, have babies, raise families, and take care of our sick and elderly family members. Juggling these numerous roles, combined with hormonal changes due to menarche, menopause, and pregnancy, as well as other health conditions, can affect a woman’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.  Despite these challenges, there are things women of all ages can do to get a good night’s sleep.

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Food for Thought: Learning New Activities May Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 1, 2013

Keeping your mind active can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Keeping your mind active, exercising, and spending social time with family and friends have been suggested as ways to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results of a new study led by Dr. Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, now provide scientific reasons for why a mentally stimulating environment, which includes learning new activities, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a protein called amyloid beta accumulates and forms plaques in the brain. Amyloid beta build-up is thought to cause memory problems by interfering with brain activity that occurs in the synapses, the spaces between nerve cells that allow communication of information. This interference may lead to a decline in a person’s memory, attention, and the ability to learn, understand, and process information.

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What You Need to Know: Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 3, 2013

Dr. Howard Weiner, Director, Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center and Co-Director, BWH Center for Neurologic Diseases

Multiple sclerosis (MS), translated literally, means multiple scars,” says Dr. Howard Weiner, Director, Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center and Co-Director, Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Brain scans of patients with MS clearly show the scarring that occurs with this progressive neurologic illness. “The good news,” Dr. Weiner notes, “is that there are now several treatment options available and all have beneficial effects for MS patients.”

Dr. Weiner, along with Dr. James Stankiewicz, BWH Department of Neurology, recently presented the latest views on the causes and treatment of MS, as well as current research, at a lecture sponsored by the McCourt Foundation.

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New Approaches for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 27, 2013

Dr. Dennis Selkoe and Dr. Reisa Sperling lead the Center for Alzheimer's Research and Treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease robs us of our most precious possessions — our memories.  And, like a robbery in the middle of the night, the theft can take place without us realizing it. Dr. Dennis Selkoe, Co-Director, Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Dr. Reisa Sperling, Director of the BWH Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, recently shared their insights into the latest medical research on Alzheimer’s disease at a lecture sponsored by the McCourt Foundation.

“Current therapies often provide patients with some symptomatic relief for a short period of time, however, none of these treatments slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Sperling. “With nearly 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 each day, the search for new Alzheimer disease treatments has intensified.”

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Relief for Persistent Depression

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 13, 2013

Dr. Arielle Stanford helps treat persistent depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation.

A new option to alleviate severe depression symptoms that are not responding to traditional treatment can now be obtained during a series of one-hour doctor visits – even over the lunch hour – using a wand and an easy chair.

It may sound a bit like a scene from a fairy tale, but the science is real. Known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), the treatment uses magnetic pulses to target areas of the brain in people suffering from persistent symptoms of depression, despite available medications.

“Many people with more severe depression do not receive adequate relief from medications alone,” says Dr. Arielle Stanford, Director of the  Program in Brain Stimulation in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “TMS is a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment to relieve symptoms with minimal side effects. It’s the latest FDA-approved treatment in brain stimulation for psychiatric conditions, an exciting area in the field of psychiatry.”

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New Breathing Device Helps Patients Battle Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 7, 2013

Dr. Christopher Ducko (right) implanted a diaphragm pacing system to help extend the life of ALS patient Scott Murphy (left).

Scott Murphy, a Massachusetts father of three, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2004. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurological disease that leads to a gradual loss of muscle function. As ALS progresses, patients lose their ability to perform the most basic tasks, like walking, swallowing and even breathing. Most patients with ALS only live 3-5 years after diagnosis. Miraculously, Scott has been able to survive well beyond that; however, continued weakening of his chest muscles and diaphragm (the muscle that helps draw air into the lungs) recently posed a new threat to his health.

Until recently, the only way to help patients like Scott was the use of a mechanical ventilator, which can be confining and costly. But a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) surgical team, led by Dr. Christopher Ducko in the Division of Thoracic Surgery, has given Scott and other ALS patients a better option in delaying their need for a ventilator. In October 2012, BWH became the first hospital in New England to implant a diaphragm pacing system in an ALS patient.

During the surgery, small electrodes, which condition the weak diaphragm muscle and improve its function, were implanted in Scott’s diaphragm. Research indicates that this will help Scott breathe more easily and postpone his need for a ventilator by up to 18 months. Additionally, unlike a ventilator, the diaphragm pacing system operates quietly and makes it possible for Scott to be mobile.

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