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Duke Neurology Research Round Up, June 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Neuron Image courtesy NIH

This June, new studies by members of the Duke Neurology Department examined issues including racial differences surrounding stroke and end-of-life care, unexplored causes and complications of epilepsy, and the sub-cellular causes and influences of neurodegeneration. Here are some brief summaries of those articles, organized by topics, with links to the complete publications.


  • A new case report details a previously undiscovered complication of epilepsy--temporary loss of the vestibular-ocular reflex that allows us to stabilize our vision with head movement. Senior author Joel Morgenlander, MD, lead author Jennifer Kang, and Aatif Husain, MD, discuss that case in the latest issue of Neurocritical Care. Read that here.
  • Bilateral hippocampal sclerosis is a rare but important cause of some forms of epilepsy; however this condition remains largely unstudied. Rod Radtke, MD, was part of a team that attempted to bridge this gap, reviewing data from 96 patients with bilateral hippocampal sclerosis and answering important questions about the condition, including symptoms, co-morbid conditions, and previously attempted medications. Read that study here.

Memory Disorders

  • How memory changes as we age remains an important research question, both for knowing more about conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and improving our understanding of memory itself. Simon Davis, PhD, and colleagues at Center for Cognitive Neuroscience compared how the neural networks involved with different forms of memory in younger versus older adults. Read what they found in Neurobiology of Aging here.

Neuromuscular Disease

  • Treating myasthenia gravis remains a complicated issue, with multiple clinical subtypes of the disease, market incentives influencing drug development, and significant adverse effects for many individuals. In the latest issue of Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, a team including Jeffrey Guptill, MD, MHS reviews the medications available for this condition, as well as those in development. Read that article here.



  • The dysregulation of autophagy, a pathway of cellular self-digestion, has recently emerged as a key part of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. In the latest issue of Neurobiology of Disease, lead author Constanza Cortes, PhD,  and senior author Al La Spada, MD, PhD, discuss the role of transcription factor EB (TFEB), one of the main transcriptional regulators of autophagy, in these diseases as well as how TFEB may be a target for future therapies. Read more.
  • Damage to nuclear or mitochondrial DNA can cause numerous health problems, from cancer to cerebellar ataxia. However, measuring this damage remains a technical and conceptual challenge. Lead author Claudia Gonzalez-Hunt, PhD, Mandheer Wadhwa, and senior author Laurie Sanders, PhD, discussed these challenges, as well as newly developed measurement strategies in Current Opinion in Toxicology. Read their article here.
  • Recent genetic studies have linked senataxin (SETX), a DNA-RNA helicase, with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, including forms of ALS and ataxia. Senior author Al La Spada, MD, PhD, and lead author Craig Bennett, PhD, discuss our evolving understanding of SETX, including its role in the pathogenesis of these diseases but also its importance in understanding the critical molecular processes within the cell. Read their article here

Neurocritical Care

  • Christa Swisher, MD, contributed to a case report of a 65-year-old woman undergoing a potential new treatment for aneurysm-- a system designed to filter cerebrospinal fluid and remove blood products as part of the ongoing PILLAR study. Read what that team found in Operative Neurosurgery here.


  • Decisions about how to provide care at the end of life are never simple or easy. M. “Luke” James, MD, contributed to an article in Neurocritical Care examining racial and ethnic differences in one area of this complicated issue: the implementation of comfort measures only status in patients with intracerebral hemorrhage. Read what they found here.