Tag Archives: neurology

Maximize your Memory with Brain Games

Do you have trouble remembering people’s names? Have you ever forgotten where you parked your car?

Dr. Kate Possin, assistant professor of neuropsychology at UCSF, says that those are actually specific memory problems that are linked with different circuits or memory systems in the brain. In this video, watch her use different memory tests to reveal the difference between types of memory, like long term memory and working memory.

If you answered yes to those first two questions, be sure to check out the brain games that can help you maximize the use of your memory.

Then, Dr.Winston Chiong, Neurology fellow at UCSF, discusses the link between the perception of oneself and memory, how neuroscience could help answer the existential question “what is the self?”

For more information from top neurology experts, see the other videos in the Multidimensional Mind series.



UC and the BRAIN Initiative

Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced his plans to create a bold, $100 million public-private initiative to better understand the brain and the diseases that affect it. Appropriately called BRAIN (for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), the group brings together experts across private industry, academia and government agencies in the areas of neuroscience, neurotechnology and neuroscience.

You can bet a good portion of that research will take place within the University of California, where researchers are already deeply entrenched in unlocking the mysteries within the human brain. How do we know? Because many of these same researchers have shared their fascinating discoveries in autism, alzheimer’s, neurology, and mental health and psychiatry with UCTV viewers for years.

And it seems our viewers are always hungry for more. UCTV’s Human Brain iTunes feed consistently shows up in iTunesU’s Top 10 Collections and “What’s Hot” sections.

No doubt that President Obama’s endorsement will mean even more exciting discoveries — and UCTV programs — to come. In the meantime, subscribe to our Human Brain feed in iTunes and browse our archive of Neurology programs at our website. There’s plenty to keep your brain busy!


Bishop Spangler (and his brain’s) Legacy

By Sasha Doppelt

On the new program “Health Matters: Your Own Personal Brain Map,” host David Granet interviewed Dr. Jacopo Annese, director of The Brain Observatory at UC San Diego. Dr. Annese is working on a “Digital Brain Library” that uses advanced neuroimaging technologies to create digital models of the human brain at cellular resolution. Sounds like pretty standard scientific research, right? Not quite.

What makes Dr. Annese’s work unique is that he also studies — and ideally gets to know — the person behind the brain. With this information, he offers an unprecedented holistic perspective on this complex organ.

Bishop Spangler, 1932-2011

Dr. Annese’s Digital Brain Library relies on generous brain donations from community members who want to have a role in discovering how disease and aging affect the brain. San Diego resident Bishop Spangler was one of these people.

Bishop passed away on June 12, 2011 after living with GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) for nine years. In the following paragraphs, his wife Bettie Spangler tells us about her husband, why he felt compelled to donate his brain to Dr. Annese, and how the donation experience profoundly affected Bishop and the entire Spangler family during his final days.

Can you tell us a little bit about your husband?
Bishop Spangler was born in 1932 in a rural area of Southwest Virginia into a farming family of seven children. His family had a proud, rich history of helping settle a community named Meadows of Dan. Growing up, he learned about integrity, helping your neighbors, working as a team, doing deals with a “hand shake,” making your own music, barn dancing, and church. He learned about determination if you wanted to accomplish anything, and the importance of the environment for raising crops and live stock. After high school he found a college in Kentucky where he could go and work his way through and, four years later, he graduated from Berea College with his B.A. degree majoring in physics. He went on to the University of Pittsburgh on a teaching assistant program and earned a Masters in Mathematics, and later his PhD also in Mathematics. He married and later moved to San Diego where he worked in the aerospace industry and raised a family. Eventually, Bishop left the aerospace industry and became an entrepreneur. He loved to “wheel and deal” so he became a real estate broker where he could use many of his gifts/talents/passions. His goal was to always try to help people “stretch in order to obtain their dreams.”

How did your family become involved in the brain library project?
Bishop read an article in the newspaper toward the end of May about the Brain Observatory and the work that Dr. Annese was doing. He showed me the article after he had made the phone call to the paper asking for someone to call him, as he would like to be a donor. He told me that he wanted to give his brain to this project after he died and would I make sure it happened? I said that I did not want to do that for myself, but if that is what he wanted to do, then I would do all I could do to make it happen. He told his children about his decision and they supported him, as we all recognized this as a Bishop thing.

Can you tell us about the experience?
On May 25, 2011 I received a call from Dr. Annese giving me some information about the project. I told him he would need to talk to my husband and he offered to come to our home the next day. Bishop insisted on getting dressed and coming downstairs to meet Dr. Annese, along with our daughter and son. He was ready to sign whatever papers necessary as he knew his time was short and he wanted to take care of business. He was now a brain donor! Dr. Annese was always kind and considerate about not adding pressure or pushing Bishop for more. He would always tell him what was happening during the MRI studies and asking if he felt like doing more. When Bishop got tired he would tell him…no more. At one time the whole family came into the bedroom where Bishop was talking about his early history and the grandchildren asked to sit in. It was fine with Dr. Annese as long as we were quiet. He looked around the room with some on the bed and others on the floor spread out and said, “It looks like camping,” and everyone felt at ease. One of our granddaughters said, “Witnessing Gampa relive key moments of his life through Jacopo’s interviews and knowing that it would be used in support of something he deeply cared about was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.”

Why did your husband want to donate his brain?
Bishop wanted to leave something he could be remembered by—a kind of legacy. He also wanted to leave something that might help humanity in the future. One of our granddaughters said it best, “It made perfect sense since he marked his life with a desire to make a difference and an ongoing quest for deeper understanding about the mysteries of earth and spirituality.”

How did his decision to participate impact his end-of-life experience?
A few days before he died, we were all sitting around in the bedroom listening to him and Dr. Annese talk, when our friend and minister and his wife came in. Introductions were made and then Bishop pointed to Dr. Annese and told our minister, “This man saved my life.” Meaning, he had given him hope that he would live on into the future through this project, and he would be able to contribute something that might help humanity and the scientific community. He lived to accomplish whatever he could give to Dr. Annese for his program.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Annese kept all of the promises he had made. He told me he would be with Bishop at the end and he would arrange everything needed to accomplish what Bishop indicated he wanted to do with his brain after he died. He was very clear in describing the project to us and to share the goals and objectives that he hoped to accomplish. He never pushed us in making any decisions or to keep appointments if it was not convenient. He also came to the Celebration Of Life service and gave support to all the family. By this time, we all considered him part of our family. We still are in contact. He has a kindness and a bedside manner that many do not have today. Bishop loved Jacopo and trusted him with the end of his life.

To learn more about Dr. Annese’s brain library project and research, watch “Health Matters: Your Own Personal Brain Map.” Thank you to Bettie Spangler for sharing her husband’s inspiring story with out UCTV audience.


Parkinson’s Disease: An Interview with UCSF’s Dr. Michael J. Aminoff

This month, UCTV premieres Parkinson’s Disease: A Dose of Hope, a 30-minute documentary that reveals what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s Disease through heartfelt stories of patients and interviews with leading medical experts.

In this UCTV interview, Parkinson’s disease expert Dr. Michael J. Aminoff, who’s featured in the program, discusses the field of Parkinson’s research, clinical care, and The Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center at UCSF.

UCTV: Why did you decide to focus your professional life on clinical care and research on Parkinson’s disease?

Michael J. Aminoff: Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, disabling disorder that—when I was an intern—had no effective medical treatment. In those early days, to watch patients respond to a newly discovered therapy with levodopa was both inspiring and touching.

UCTV: The Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center at UCSF is described as a comprehensive treatment center. What does that mean and why is it important to take a comprehensive approach?

MJA: Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects many parts of the nervous system, and thus the body. In addition to disturbances of movement, characterized by slowness, stiffness, and tremor, the disease may cause postural imbalance, intellectual decline, depression, anxiety, disturbances of bladder and bowel functions, disturbances of sweating and blood pressure control, loss of the sense of smell, and other problems. Thus, a comprehensive approach to its management is mandatory. It includes physical, speech, and occupational therapies as well as cognitive assessment and treatment, urological management, and social support. Some patients will also need neurosurgical treatment. The staff at our center has extensive experience with many of these different aspects and has established referral links to help patients receive the multidisciplinary care that they require.

UCTV: What type of interactions do clinicians treating patients have with the researchers doing studies at the center?

MJA: We have a close interaction with translational and basic scientists. Indeed, one of the functions of our center is to bring to the clinic advances made in the laboratory. For example, Dr. Bankiewicz, in his laboratory, developed a form of gene therapy for animals with an experimentally induced type of parkinsonism, and in collaboration with him, we then tested this in humans with Parkinson’s disease. The encouraging results that we obtained will, we anticipate, lead to further and more extensive studies of this approach. Our physicians and scientists meet regularly to discuss clinical or scientific advances and their implications for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

UCTV: Much of the center’s research involves clinical trials. What is the value of a clinical trial and how can people get involved?

MJA: Clinical trials allow participants to receive otherwise unavailable treatments. The aim is to establish whether a particular treatment is beneficial for patients. It is only too easy for physicians or patients to believe they are being helped by a novel therapy, if only because they want to see a beneficial response. Clinical trials provide an objective means of determining whether benefit occurs to a particular treatment, and usually involve comparing the response to active treatment or placebo. Our web site lists current studies in progress at UCSF, and a national web site lists trials throughout the country.

UCTV: Parkinson’s disease research has made huge advances in recent years. What are some of the most interesting discoveries you have seen?

MJA: I have seen the disease move from being untreatable to one for which a variety of treatments are now available, at least for the movement disorder that is a major feature of the disease. Over my career, I have seen the advent of levodopa, drugs that act like it (dopamine agonists), the development of new surgical techniques such as deep brain stimulation, and now the beginnings of gene therapy. These have been truly exciting times.

UCTV: Where do you see Parkinson’s disease research going in the future?

MJA: I see an extension of gene therapies and eventually the development of stem cell therapies. I expect that therapies to slow or even reverse the disease will be developed (at present, treatments are purely symptomatic, i.e., help the symptoms without affecting the underlying disease process). It may eventually be possible to predict a patient’s response to therapy by their genetic make-up. There is much to look forward to.

UCTV: What do you want viewers of this program to learn about Parkinson’s disease?

MJA: That there is an increasing understanding about the nature and varying manifestations of Parkinson’s disease, and growing expertise in its management.