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Duke Neurology Research Round Up, July 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Over the past 31 days, members of the Duke Neurology Department contributed to ten new peer-reviewed journal articles. Topics of these articles include a discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing women in neurology written by Suma Shah, a JAMA article discussing a large-scale effort to improve stroke outcomes in China co-written by Ying Xian, MD, PhD, and three new articles co-written by Laurie Sanders, PhD, (photo) on subjects from the role of genetics in Parkinson’s disease to mitochondrial biogenesis. Here are summaries of those ten articles, along with links to the journals themselves.

General Neurology

  • Despite much attention to the subject, gender inequalities continue to exist in academic medicine, in areas including leadership, pay discrepancies, and even depression. Suma Shah, MD, uses both national trends and her experience as a female resident and fellow to discuss these inequalities in the field of neurology and offers some suggestions on how men and women can reduce them. Read her article in Annals of Neurology here.

Memory Disorders

  • The human brain changes as we age. Different neural systems adapt to perform the same mental functions over time, particularly with memory function. Lead author Simon Davis, PhD, and colleagues used brain modeling to examine how both structural white matter and functional connectivity change over time. Read what they found in Network Neuroscience here.


  • Self-reported race or ethnicity is an inherently subjective process, both for reporting individuals and the categories themselves. Michael “Luke” James, MD, contributed to a recent study that compared these self-reports to another method--ancestry-informative DNA markers (AIMs) regarding risk of intracerebral hemorrhage. Their team found that the information present in AIMs offered a more accurate risk assessment that the self-reports. Read that article in Frontiers in Neurology here.
  • In China and other parts of the world, hospital personnel adherence to evidence-based stroke care is limited, even as strokes are becoming more frequent. Ying Xian, MD, PhD,was part of a team that recently evaluated a large-scale effort to improve that adherence. They evaluated an intervention that included 40 public health hospitals in China that enrolled 4800 acute ischemic stroke patients, finding evidence for a small but significant improvement in care. Read their study in JAMA here.

Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders

  • DNA damage is now believed to play an important role in many areas of health and disease. Lead author Laurie Sanders, PhD, Jeremy Rouanet, and colleagues describe a new PCR-based assay which is accurate and less labor intensive than other methods in the most recent issue of Current Protocols in Toxicology. Read that article here.
  • While mutations in the LRRK2 gene are known to cause familial Parkinson’s disease, the gene’s role in the more common form of the disease--idiopathic Parkinson’s disease--remain unclear. An article in Science Translational Medicine co-written by Sanders found evidence for LRRK2’s association with the disease. Read that article here.
  • Neurons in the central nervous system depend on functioning mitochondria to survive, but the process by which these neurons maintain and renew mitochondria has been poorly understood. Sanders also contributed to a new study in Journal of Neuroscience that helps to clarify this issue. Their research suggests mitochondrial biogenesis occurs in both cell bodies and in distal axons, and that stress conditions associated with Parkinson’s disease affect this process. Read that study here.

Neuromuscular Disease

  • Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), which allow people to interact with the world using brain signals (e.g., EEG activity) rather than muscles, offer enormous potential for individuals with ALS or other conditions that impair muscle control. However, few studies have examined BCIs for patients with disabling conditions. Rick Bedlack, MD, PhD, contributed toward a recent Neurology story that followed 39 patients with ALS using one form of BCI for up to 18 months. Read what they found here.
  • Ultrasound is a helpful tool for diagnosing neuromuscular disorders, especially when diagnosis of a specific condition is difficult. Lisa Hobson-Webb, MD,  was the senior author of a recent case report in Muscle and Nerve that discusses important patterns in forearm abnormalities that can aid in diagnosing this condition. Read that study here.

Neurocritical Care

  • Polymorphisms in apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene have been linked to cerebral vasospasm and other harmful outcomes in adults with traumatic brain injury, but these results have not been replicated in children. Senior author Daniel Laskowitz, MD, MHS, Ellen Bennett, PhD, and colleagues examined these associations in a prospective, descriptive study of 60 children and infants with traumatic brain injury. Read what they found here.