Neurosciences

All Articles in the Category ‘Neurosciences’

Scientists Find Clues to Rare Mutation Hours After Toddler’s Brain Surgery

At 5 months old, Tyler Cassinelli, now 3, was battling both liver cancer and intractable epilepsy. When he was at Seattle Children’s preparing to undergo cancer treatment, Tyler had a seizure that stopped his breathing.

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Jane Cassinelli, Tyler’s mother. “We could see his stats on the monitor dropping, and doctors came rushing in.”

Doctors quickly intubated and revived Tyler. Five months later, his cancer was in remission. However, he continued to have unpredictable and life-threatening seizures that multiple medications failed to stop.

Genetic testing revealed that Tyler had a mutation of the HCN1 gene. Children with this rare abnormality are at risk for traumatic epilepsies, said Dr. Nino Ramirez, director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research.

“It was difficult to hear that Tyler was expected to have a lifetime of hard-to-control seizures due to a genetic disorder,” said Cassinelli.

In addition to the mutation, Tyler had a brain malformation called focal cortical dysplasia, a common cause of intractable epilepsy. Testing showed Tyler’s seizures were coming from an area on the left side of his brain. Brain surgery to address the problematic lesion could help, and what’s more, his brain could also enable researchers to unlock some of the mysteries of the genetic mutation.

“Tyler’s situation was unique and extremely desperate,” said Ramirez. “There is great clinical interest worldwide in better understanding the HCN1 mutation, and Tyler’s brain could provide a rare window into its role in epilepsy.” Read full post »

Teen Creates Art for Heart Warriors

After doctors found a tumor and cyst in her brain, 13-year-old Emiliah Albanese discovered that channeling her love for drawing was a helpful way to relieve stress and express her feelings.

When she learned her younger cousin would need heart surgery, Emiliah put her artistic skills to work by creating a personalized heart drawing. On social media, her art quickly caught the attention of other families who had children with heart issues. She began receiving hundreds of requests to create personalized “heartwork.”

Emiliah’s striking watercolor-painted drawings often feature children and anatomically correct hearts with thoughtful, customized details. In one picture, a girl waters colorful flowers that blossom from a heart. In another, a boy pulls a wagon carrying a heart. Through her “heartwork,” Emiliah hopes to help brighten what can be a difficult time for children and their families.

“I feel really happy when I’m drawing for others, especially knowing that the drawings seem to bring joy to other kids and their families,” said Emiliah. Read full post »

Smoking During Pregnancy Doubles the Risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, Study Warns

A new study finds that any amount of smoking during pregnancy – even just one cigarette a day – doubles the risk of an infant dying from sudden unexpected infant death. (Photo by Getty Images)

The first findings to result from a collaboration between Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Microsoft data scientists provides expecting mothers new information about how smoking before and during pregnancy contributes to the risk of an infant dying suddenly and unexpectedly before their first birthday.

According to the study published in Pediatrics, any amount of smoking during pregnancy – even just one cigarette a day – doubles the risk of an infant dying from sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). For women who smoked an average of 1-20 cigarettes a day, the odds of SUID increased by 0.07 with each additional cigarette smoked.

“With this information, doctors can better counsel pregnant women about their smoking habits, knowing that the number of cigarettes smoked daily during pregnancy significantly impacts the risk for SUID,” said Dr. Tatiana Anderson, a researcher in Seattle Children’s Center for Integrative Brain Research and lead author on the study. “Similar to public health campaigns that educated parents about the importance of infant sleep position, leading to a 50% decrease in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates, we hope advising women about this risk will result in less babies dying from these tragic causes.”

If no women smoked during pregnancy, Anderson and her co-authors estimate that 800 of the approximately 3,700 deaths from SUID every year in the U.S. could be prevented, lowering current SUID rates by 22%. Read full post »

New Drug Trial Gives Hope for Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy

Shanahan “Shanny” Dameral, 19, recently participated in a clinical trial at Seattle Children’s investigating a new drug for children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

For the first time in his life, Shanahan “Shanny” Dameral, 19, has a girlfriend. Soon, he’ll be graduating with a high school diploma and looking for his first job on the Kitsap Peninsula.

What seems routine for many is a big deal for Shanahan and other children living with treatment-resistant or intractable epilepsy. For reasons largely unknown, seizures in this subset of children persist long past their discovery in early childhood despite being treated with multiple medications and undergoing surgery to remove the affected parts of their brain.

Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 5, life for Shanahan has always come with seizures attached. When his seizures returned after a second brain surgery shortly after his 16th birthday, his mom Linley Allen, hoped for a medical breakthrough.

“We needed to find something else since another surgery was out of the question,” Allen said. “We had heard about a drug being studied for a more severe seizure condition. I kept holding onto hope that it might be expanded to treat Shanny’s type of seizures because it was all we had at the time.”

Then last year, Shanahan’s longtime neurologist at Seattle Children’s, Dr. Russell Saneto, told the family about a phase 1 trial of an experimental therapy known as Nab-rapamycin (ABI-009) for patients with intractable epilepsy at Seattle Children’s.

“Dr. Saneto has always pushed for better ways to treat Shanny’s seizures, and even after he explained that this trial was early in the research process, Shanny popped right up and asked, ‘When do we start?’” said Allen. “I was like, ‘Shanny, this is going to be a couple of years out,’ so we were both surprised when Dr. Saneto said, ‘No, you can start next month.’” Read full post »

Lighting the Way for Children With Brain Tumors

Danica Taylor, 3, has undergone treatment at Seattle Children’s for an aggressive, very rare type of brain tumor known as atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, or ATRT.

Recalling the treatments her daughter has had over the past year for an aggressive, very rare type of brain tumor known as atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, or ATRT, Audrey Taylor says it’s like watching a game where your favorite sports team keeps losing and then regaining the lead.

“There are so many times when you feel like you totally got this, followed by moments where you’re not really sure what’s going to happen next,” she said.

Diagnosed with ATRT at 21 months old, Danica Taylor, now 3, has endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, two brain surgeries, laser ablation and proton beam radiation therapy to try to stop the fast-growing tumor.

Danica remained strong through it all.

“She’s just the bravest and toughest kid I know,” Taylor said. “Whenever I have to do something hard, I summon my inner Danica.” Read full post »

New Findings on Concussion in Football’s Youngest Players

As a naturally-talented quarterback and cornerback for the Northwest Junior Football League’s North Creek Jaguars, Andrew Ronneberg, 14, participated in the study led by researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute exploring concussion in football players ages 5-14.

New research from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and UW Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute found concussion rates among football players ages 5-14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or 5%, sustaining a football-related concussion each season.

Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study summarizes the research team’s key findings from data collected during two, 10-week fall seasons in partnership with the Northwest Junior Football League (NJFL). Licensed athletic trainers from Seattle Children’s treated and recorded concussion from the sidelines at NJFL games to allow researchers to characterize concussions in this age group – from how often players sustained a head injury to factors that influenced their risk of injury.

“Measuring the incidence of concussion in grade-school and middle-school football players is essential to improving the safety of the game,” said Dr. Sara Chrisman, an investigator in the research institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development and lead author on the study. “It’s hard to determine the impact of prevention efforts if we don’t know how often these injuries occur at baseline.” Read full post »

Singing During Brain Surgery, Kira Performs to Preserve Her Passion

About four years ago, Kira Iaconetti, 19, began noticing something weird that would happen when she was singing or listening to music.

“It was like a light switch turned off in my brain,” said Kira, a talented self-taught musician who has been performing in musicals since she was 6 years old. “Suddenly, I was tone deaf, I couldn’t process the words in time with the music and I couldn’t sing.” Read full post »

Zack Finds His Beat Amidst a Life Full of Challenges

For 13-year-old Zack Edge, playing the drums came naturally ever since he laid his eyes on his very first drum set at 3 years old.

Yet other parts of Zack’s life didn’t come so naturally, such as his ability to stand or walk.

“Zack was born with cerebral palsy,” said his mother Sara Edge, “and over the course of his short lifetime he’s gone through a lot and has had to overcome so much.”

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that affects muscle movement. The muscles of some children with CP are stiff and rigid, which is called spasticity that leads to stiffness in the muscle and joints causing movement to be very difficult.

“It wasn’t until we went to Seattle Children’s that Zack’s life completely changed,” said Edge.

Read full post »

Dr. Grey Saves the Day for Teen with Down Syndrome

Savannah Miller, 17, poses with nurse practitioner Lindsey Thomsen, who dressed up as Dr. Grey from the popular television show to make Savannah’s dream of meeting the fictional doctor a reality.

Doctor appointments aren’t usually a fun experience for 17-year-old Savannah Miller who was born with Down syndrome. Usually, trips to the hospital are accompanied with a fair share of reluctance and anxiety. During a recent trip to Seattle Children’s, however, that all changed thanks to Lindsey Thomsen, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the pre-anesthesia clinic at Seattle Children’s, who went above and beyond her usual duties. Thomsen was inspired by one of Savannah’s favorite television shows to turn a trip to the doctor into an unforgettable experience for Savannah and her family.

Savannah has been a patient at Seattle Children’s since she was a baby, undergoing her first open heart surgery at only 3 months old. Hospital stays and check-ups have been a large part of Savannah’s life, which understandably can cause some unease. That was the case when Thomsen first met Savannah a few weeks ago. They were meeting to talk about an upcoming procedure.

“It was a challenge just to get her in the door that day,” said Jill Miller, Savannah’s mother.

Savannah was visibly upset and refused to have her vitals taken. Getting through the appointment was a struggle, but eventually Savannah warmed up to Thomsen.

“Will you be there?” Savannah asked Thomsen, referring to the day of the procedure. Read full post »

Why Reid ‘Walks Awesome’ for Hydrocephalus

When other kids ask Reid Watkins, 8, about the leg braces he wears, he likes to tell them they help him ‘walk awesome.’

The outgoing third grader was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus at 16 months old. Until undergoing two surgeries over the course of two years at Seattle Children’s, both conditions had limited his ability to walk on his own.

That made taking part in this year’s Hydrocephalus Association Seattle WALK to End Hydrocephalus all the more important to Reid. For the last seven years, the Watkins family has participated in the walk at Magnuson Park as a way to raise awareness about the condition. Read full post »