Neurosciences

All Articles in the Category ‘Neurosciences’

Light and Genetic Probes Untangle Dynamics of Blood Flow Through the Brain’s Vast Capillary Network

The human brain has over 400 miles of total vasculature, yet little is known about the tiny capillaries that make up much of this intricate labyrinth. Understanding how this vast network regulates blood flow in the brain could hold the key to new treatments for neonatal and childhood neurologic conditions, such as stroke and hypoxia, and issues of aging like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

While the human brain has over 400 miles of total vasculature, little is known about the tiny capillaries that make up much of this intricate labyrinth of blood vessels critical for delivering oxygenated blood and nutrients to billions of brain cells.

According to Dr. Andy Shih, a principal investigator in the Center for Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, understanding how this vast network regulates blood flow in the brain could hold the key to new treatments for neonatal and childhood neurologic conditions, such as stroke and hypoxia, and issues of aging like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Insufficient blood flow contributes to many of the common neurologic problems seen in children and adults,” he said. “Yet, because we can’t see the capillaries, which measure about 1/10th the thickness of hair, with in vivo clinical imaging techniques, determining how blood travels through this densely packed bed of vessels has remained elusive.”

Wanting to get a closer look, Shih and fellow scientists, Dr. Andree-Anne Berthiaume and Dr. David Hartmann, applied special techniques called two-photon imaging and optogenetics to isolate and study brain capillaries in animal models. Their findings published today in Nature Neuroscience describe the dynamics that govern capillary blood flow in the brain and have broad implications for future avenues of brain research.
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Minimally-Invasive Imaging and Laser Surgery Solve Elusive Epilepsy

Giorgia Graham, 11, is among the 20 to 30% of children with epilepsy whose seizures do not respond to medication. Surgery is an option if doctors can pinpoint the source of the seizures and remove the abnormal tissue without affecting the child’s ability to process information, see, speak or move.

When 11-year-old, Giorgia Graham, told her parents her cheek was going sporadically numb, they thought it was because she banged her face playing tag.

But when the numbness kept coming back, her parents realized it was something more serious. They discovered Giorgia was having seizures when she experienced a grand mal seizure sleeping one night with her mom while her dad was traveling out of the country. Though the seizures remained mostly isolated to Giorgia’s face, some, like this one, took over her entire body and caused her to lose consciousness. At worst, she was having more than 60 seizures a day.

“When medications didn’t stop the seizures, Giorgia’s mom, Christina, and I knew brain surgery was our only hope,” said Nick Graham, Giorgia’s dad. “That’s when we came to Seattle Children’s for a second opinion to see if surgery was possible.” Read full post »

Malachi Gets Special Garbage Day Surprise

Tuesdays are 2-year-old Malachi Stohr’s favorite days. Every Tuesday, rain or shine, Whitney Stohr and Malachi bundle up and wave to the garbage men as they empty the garbage bins at the end of the driveway. Malachi and Whitney then take a walk around the neighborhood, following the big green truck along its route. Malachi loves garbage day, and so when Seattle Children’s found out, they got in touch with Waste Management to plan a special surprise.

“So much of Malachi’s life is scheduled around his medical needs,” Stohr said. “He spends many days in the hospital, in clinics, in therapy. We’re eternally grateful to have that level of care available to us. We are thankful to have such ready access to the services at Seattle Children’s and in our local community. But, at the end of the day, Malachi is just a typical toddler. He loves big trucks and watching the trash bins go up and down, up and down.” Read full post »

Malachi Stohr Is “Absolutely Amazing”

On May 7, 2018, Whitney Stohr slumped to the ground in the corner of her son’s room in Seattle Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Her son Malachi, who was born with a severe form of spina bifida, had undergone a tracheostomy days before. When he woke up after the procedure, his pain was so intense his body went into shock.

That night, Stohr remembers hearing beeps and alarms blaring in their room. Malachi wasn’t getting enough oxygen and his heart rate was dropping. Providers rushed in to perform CPR.

“I just crumbled to the floor,” Stohr remembers. “I was scared he wasn’t going to make it.”

That’s when a provider from the Medically Complex Care team knelt beside Stohr.

“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘It’s okay Whitney. We got him. He’s stable. He’s going to be okay.’ She told me that night that I needed to be strong for Malachi, and I haven’t stopped yet.”

The Stohrs have come a long way since then, and while Stohr has feared for her son’s life countless times, Seattle Children’s workforce members have been like a second family during the most challenging moments. Read full post »

“It’s Been Hard, But There’s Hope”: Family Joins Experts to Shed Light on AFM

Maxford Brown, 16, with his family at Seattle Children’s. Maxford was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2017. Pictured from left to right: (front) Maxford and his younger brother, Zachary; (back) Maxford’s dad, Jeff; mom, Tracy; and older sister, Grace.

It’s been over three years since Maxford Brown woke up one morning not feeling well. Neither Maxford nor his family had any idea that it would mark the beginning of a life-changing journey with a rare, but serious neurological condition called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

“I suggested it might help for him to lay down. When I went to wake him up, he had lost all ability to move on his own,” remembered his mom.

In a state of shock, Tracy Brown called their pediatrician to describe what had happened to her son.

“I remember asking our doctor if we should make an appointment,” she said. “That’s when they told me we needed to get Maxford to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department right away.” Read full post »

From Stunning Diagnosis to Unexpected Hope: MEK Inhibitor Proves Amazing for Grace

Despite a lifetime of medical setbacks, you’ll almost always find 18-year-old Grace Carney smiling.

Grace Carney was 16 years old when she first began falling. Before long, she was falling every day. It got so bad that she had to rely on other people — family members at home and aides at school — to help her walk.

For Grace, this was the latest in a lifetime of medical setbacks, many of which stem from neurofibromatosis type one (NF1), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow all over the body, including under the skin and on the nerves.

To improve Grace’s ability to walk, a doctor in Spokane recommended a major orthopedic surgery. But as the Carneys prepared for that surgery, an MRI result flipped everything upside down and brought them to Seattle Children’s, where Grace received an innovative medical treatment that changed her life and could do the same for countless others with NF1. Read full post »

“You Don’t Have to Know Yourself Right Away”: Iris Shares Her Journey of Self Discovery As a Transgender Woman

In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Seattle Children’s patient Iris shares her story as a self-identified transgender woman and offers advice on how you can support the mental health and well-being of other transgender youth.

In July, Lisa picked up her 17-year-old, who had been identifying as gender non-binary, from summer camp. When her teen got into the car, they had news.

“I want to change my name to Iris and I am going to use feminine pronouns from this point forward.”

Lisa remembers her light-hearted response. “I just said, ‘Okay. But you may have to give me a minute to adjust.’”

For Lisa, this was not a tremendous, earth-shifting announcement. It was just another opportunity to support her daughter’s journey of self-discovery.

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Childhood Tics: Will My Child Outgrow Them?

Childhood tics and movement disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Tics can range from a subtle nasal sniff or throat clearing to a more severe head snap or vocal outburst.

Tics that start in elementary school and continue during adolescence are also common. According to Dr. Dararat Mingbunjerdsuk, a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center, up to 10-20% of school-age children may exhibit a tic at one point in their life.

“Tics that come and go are the most common cause of movement disorder we see in the clinic,” she said. “The vast majority of children eventually outgrow their tics or the tics become less frequent or less severe as the person enters adulthood.”
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Tara Shares a Message of Inclusion

Tara Nadella shares her personal experience as the sibling of a patient at Seattle Children’s and explains why she approaches life with a lens of inclusion.

I’m 17 and a senior in high school. Family time is important to me, especially with my siblings! When my brother, Zain, and I spend time together, we usually listen to music or go to the movies.

Pretty ordinary sibling stuff, but what makes our story particularly unique is the fact that Zain has cerebral palsy.

Zain is 23 and has been a patient at Seattle Children’s for his entire life – so we see the hospital as a second home. We’ve spent a lot of time there, including holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter.

Last year, Zain was in the intensive care unit for his birthday, so we brought the party to him — taking turns visiting his room and singing. The staff was so gracious about everything, and we were able to bring joy to Zain even though he was in a hospital bed.

From my first taste of onion rings in the cafeteria as a child to understanding how to care for my brother today, this hospital has been a partner on our journey. All children and families deserve the exceptional care we’ve been so fortunate to receive at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »

Genetic Study Evolves Understanding of Common Birth Defects of the Brain

Daniel Sokoloff and his mom, Lara Sokoloff, photographed here when Daniel was younger, were one of 100 families who contributed to a study aimed at understanding common birth defects of the brain.

In the largest genetic study of the most common birth defects of the brain diagnosed during pregnancy, researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute say their findings evolve our understanding of brain development. The findings will also change the information given to expecting parents when cerebellar malformations, such as Dandy-Walker malformation and cerebellar hypoplasia, are detected prenatally.

With funding support from the Dandy-Walker Alliance and the Philly Baer Foundation, the results gathered from 100 families provide the most accurate information to date about the genetic and non-genetic causes of birth defects involving the cerebellum. They will also help doctors counsel parents about their child’s prognosis after they’re born and their risk of having another child with the abnormality.

“For those who are pregnant, you certainly don’t want to have a problem with the baby, but if doctors detect a brain abnormality, you want accurate information about what that means,” said Dr. William Dobyns, the senior author on the paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and an investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research. “It’s the same after birth. If you have a child at risk for developmental challenges, it helps to know the cause and what’s going to happen. This study significantly advances our ability to answer those questions.” Read full post »