Neurosciences

All Articles in the Category ‘Neurosciences’

How a Neurosurgeon’s Gifted Hands Saved an Artist’s Creative Mind

Nina was at Seattle Children’s selling her art to raise money for the hospital when a chance encounter reunited her with Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, the doctor who performed her life-saving operation.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen and his former patient Nina Jubran share two important skills: As a surgeon and an artist, they both have great attention to detail and hands that are used to doing very delicate work. They also have another profound connection: Ellenbogen saved Nina’s life 12 years ago today when she came in for neurosurgery to remove a dangerous brain tumor.

Nina, 22, is an artist and a student at the University of Washington studying sociology. In her spare time, she makes and sells delicate clay figurines like miniature scenes of penguins fishing, ornate bouquets and families of teddy bears. To thank Ellenbogen for saving her life, Nina made him clay figurines 12 years ago of a teddy bear and puppies that still sit on his desk.

Recently, Nina was at Seattle Children’s selling her figurines to raise money for the hospital when a chance encounter reunited her with the doctor who performed her life-saving operation. Ellenbogen was having a busy day with surgeries, and he went out for a quick cup of coffee before heading into his next operation.

“When I saw Nina, my heart skipped a beat,” Ellenbogen said. “It made my day to run into a former patient. I am so proud that she is out there being successful and doing what she loves. That is what drives me as a doctor.” Read full post »

New Research Links Zika Virus to Brain Defects

This image compares the brain of a baby that has developed normally (top), the brain of a baby that has developed primary microcephaly (middle), and the brain of a baby from Brazil whose mother contracted Zika virus during her pregnancy (bottom). The bottom image indicates several abnormalities, including a severe reduction in brain size, excess fluid around the brain (external hydrocephalus) and calcifications in the brain tissue that indicate abnormal brain development. IMAGE CREDIT: Dr. Lavinia Schuler-Faccini, Genetics Department, Federal University in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

This image compares the brain of a baby that has developed normally (top), the brain of a baby that has developed primary microcephaly (middle), and the brain of a baby from Brazil whose mother contracted Zika virus during her pregnancy (bottom). The bottom image indicates several abnormalities, including a severe reduction in brain size, excess fluid around the brain (external hydrocephalus) and calcifications in the brain tissue that indicate abnormal brain development. IMAGE CREDIT: Dr. Lavinia Schuler-Faccini, Genetics Department, Federal University in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

New research out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell indicates a likely link between the Zika virus and abnormal brain development. Scientists are studying if the spread of Zika by mosquitoes in Latin America is linked to the increased rates of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Florida State University and Emory University.

Dr. William Dobyns, a pediatric neurogeneticist at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who treats and studies microcephaly, sat down with On the Pulse to discuss the new research published today.

Q: Does this new study published today indicate a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly in newborns?

Dobyns: The scientists who did this work confirmed that when developing brain cells are exposed to the Zika virus, it interferes with normal brain development.

The scientists studied what would happen if neural stem cells, which are the basic building blocks of a developing brain, were exposed to the Zika virus. These neural stem cells give rise to neurons and provide the scaffolding that allows the rest of the brain to develop properly. When neural stem cells do not develop normally, it interferes with brain development.

The paper showed that the 90% of neural stem cells exposed to Zika were infected and began to make copies of the virus. Many of the cells died or were unable to divide and create normal brain cells.

Q: What does this research mean for the scientific community studying the Zika virus?

Dobyns: This research helps scientists understand how the Zika virus could be leading to the birth defects we are seeing. It gives us a path to research drugs and vaccines to prevent Zika infection from causing brain defects. Read full post »

Microcephaly: Neurologists Answer Questions in Light of Zika Outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus and its potential link to birth defects a global health emergency. Zika virus is carried mainly by a species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti.

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus and its potential link to birth defects a global health emergency. Scientists are studying if the spread of Zika in Latin America is linked to the increased rates of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Zika virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito.

Dr. William Dobyns and Dr. Ghayda Mirzaa are pediatric neurogeneticists and researchers at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who treat and study microcephaly. On the Pulse sat down with them to discuss microcephaly.

Q: What is microcephaly?

Mirzaa: Microcephaly is a condition in which a fetus or baby’s head size is abnormally small, defined as more than two standard deviations below average. The smaller head size reflects abnormal or decreased brain growth. Microcephaly affects about 2% of newborns, while severe microcephaly, defined as a head size more than three standard deviations below average, is seen in less than 0.1% of newborns.

Microcephaly occurs as the only birth defect in many children, but it can also occur with a wide range of additional abnormalities including other brain defects. When a baby has microcephaly, a neurologist or geneticist will order tests to determine the cause. Read full post »

The Science of Gratitude and How Kids Learn to Express It

Scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute describe the neuroscience behind gratitude and how kids learn it.

What happens in our brains and bodies when we feel gratitude? We get a fuzzy feeling when we give thanks or receive it because we did something nice. But why does gratitude feel good? And how can families teach kids to express this sentiment?

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a neuroscientist at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, says the feeling of gratitude activates several parts of the brain. The ventral tegmental area is a part of the brain associated with reward and motivation. The hypothalamus is associated with basic tasks such as eating, sleeping, hormone secretion and stress. The septum is associated with bonding. When we feel and express thanks, these parts of the brain light up.

“Research shows that gratitude is linked with feelings of reward, improved sleep and decreased depression and anxiety,” Ferguson said. “There are measurable benefits to mental health and interpersonal relationships when humans feel gratitude.” Read full post »

Epilepsy Research Confirms that Surgery at a Young Age is Beneficial

Bailey Moser, age 5

Bailey Moser, age 5

Neurosurgeons at Seattle Children’s Hospital have long suspected that epilepsy patients who have surgery earlier in life have better outcomes than those that wait. Now they have data to confirm their instincts.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics, lead author Dr. Hillary Shurtleff, neuropsychologist and investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute Center for Integrative Brain Research, found that early surgical treatment of focal seizures – those that affect only one area of the brain – in preschool aged children is highly beneficial. The results showed that surgery can reduce the amount of seizures and the number of medications patients are on while helping improve intelligence outcomes. Read full post »

One Family’s Journey Across the Country to Treat Daughter’s Epilepsy

Marvin family Newport RI Aug 2005

The Marvin family

Imagine living every day of your life waiting for your child to have their next seizure. This is often the reality for parents of children with intractable epilepsy – a chronic form of epilepsy that can’t be controlled by medications alone. Every moment is plagued by uncertainty, and the world quickly becomes a place filled with barriers where hope and opportunity used to be.

This scenario is something with which James Marvin and his wife Joana are all too familiar. When their daughter, Charlotte, was diagnosed with epilepsy after having her first seizure at just 14 months old, this became their family’s world.

“We called it ‘the antagonist,’” said Marvin. “Charlotte would usually have a seizure every couple of days, but any time she was stressed, tired or sick, the antagonist would come out. It was so difficult to live our lives just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and there was no end in sight.”

That was, until five years later when they traveled 3,000 miles from their home in Virginia, to seek treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital that held the promise of ending Charlotte’s seizures, hopefully for good.

Read full post »

When Brain Surgery Is the Family Business: A Father’s Day Story

Dr. Jeff Ojemann with his dad, Dr. George Ojemann

Dr. Jeff Ojemann with his dad, Dr. George Ojemann.

For Dr. Jeff Ojemann, chief of the Neurosurgery Division and director of epilepsy surgery at Seattle Children’s, neuroscience is not just a passion – it’s the family business. His father, Dr. George Ojemann, was also a neurosurgeon and a national pioneer in the treatment of epilepsy.

As we near Father’s Day, we asked Ojemann about his dad and how their relationship influenced his career choice. Read full post »

The Reality of Pediatric Stroke

Being the mother of a pediatric stroke survivor, I am thrilled that this month marks Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month in Washington state. As a nation, we have supported efforts of increasing awareness of stroke in general, however, pediatric stroke has received little awareness or research to date. Here we share our story in hopes of increasing awareness among the community, advocating for more resources and support for children and their families who have been impacted by stroke, and to provide hope to families starting out on this journey that our children can overcome vast obstacles.

Addison Hyatt survived a pediatric stroke at birth

Addison Hyatt survived a pediatric stroke at birth

Contrary to what most people believe, stroke is a potential risk for everyone, including children and teens. Stroke occurs at the highest rate in the first year of life, and is most common between the 28th week of pregnancy up until one month after birth. Approximately one in 1,600 to 4,000 newborns have a stroke each year. For children age 1 to 18, stroke occurs in 11 out of 100,000 kids and teens. I share this information not to create alarm, but rather to spread awareness. Pediatric stroke is often thought of as extremely rare; sadly it is not. I know far too well that it’s real, and we encourage other parents to understand its signs, symptoms and treatment options. Read full post »

Disconnecting the Brain, Reconnecting with Life

Sage Taylor was born with a severe malformation in the right hemisphere of her brain – a condition that caused her to have hundreds of tiny “micro” seizures every day. Here, mom Sam Rosen reflects on their leap of faith with a neurosurgeon at Seattle Children’s and how Sage’s life took a dramatic turn for the better.

Sage Taylor

Sage Taylor, now 9 years old, came to Seattle Children’s soon after she was born because she was having hundreds of tiny seizures each day.

In October 2005 my husband Don Taylor and I were blessed with a second daughter. All prenatal tests were normal and my delivery was easy. She was perfect, though more restless than our older daughter and not as good of a sleeper.

Three weeks after Sage came into the world, I was taking a post-partum class for new moms. The nurse instructor took me aside and encouraged me to take Sage to Seattle Children’s as soon as possible for an EEG – a test that measures and records the brain’s electrical activity. She explained she thought Sage had a very slight jerkiness of movement in her arms and legs that might not be normal.

And so began our journey with the incredible doctors and nurses at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »

Hunting for a Cure: Researcher Brings New Muscular Dystrophy Treatments to Seattle

Erik Twede was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with

Erik Twede was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness.

The day doctors told Karen Twede her son Erik had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, she went straight home and searched for the mysterious illness in her medical dictionary. She read: “A progressive muscle disease in which there is gradual weakening and wasting of the muscles. There is no cure.”

“My breath caught in my throat,” Twede said. “It was a terrifying reality to accept.”

Thankfully, several clinical research studies being offered at Seattle Children’s Research Institute are giving hope to parents facing the same devastating diagnosis.

The studies, led by Dr. Susan Apkon, director, Seattle Children’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and an investigator in the research institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, offer promise to better treat, or even cure, Duchenne, through the use of new therapies with fewer side effects.

“When I meet with patients with Duchenne and their families today, we have a very different conversation than we might have had 10 years ago,” Apkon said. “Today I ask my patients ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ because I believe in their future. I’ve been able to look ahead and see the research being done nationally and internationally and there seem to be treatments on the horizon.” Read full post »