Duke Neurology Research Round Up, November 2022

By William Alexander

This October, members of the Duke Neurology Department advanced the fields of clinical and translational neuroscience, contributing to 14 new peer-reviewed studies and one book chapter. Highlights from our recent research include validation of new automated measures that evaluate handwriting for dystonia symptoms, a discussion of the effects of blood pressure on head and facial pain, and a discussion of presentations of a neuroimmune disorder known as MOGAD. Read the paragraphs below for brief summaries of these articles as well as links to the original research.

Epilepsy, Sleep, and Clinical Neurophysiology

  • Andrew Spector, MD, was the senior author of a new comprehensive review examining race-based sleep health disparities between Asian Americans and other American racial groups. The study compares sleep outcomes between Asian American subgroups disaggregated by ethnicity and ancestral national origin; it also identifies gaps in the existing literature, analyzes barriers to studying Asian American sleep, and recommends topics for future research. Read the full article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

General and Community Neurology

  • Leonard White, PhD, contributed to a new study that examined how in utero exposure to heroin affects brain development into early adolescence in a mouse model. Their findings suggest that our findings suggest that prenatal opioid exposure may have effects on brain morphology, connectivity, and, consequently, function that persists into adolescence. Read the full article in NMR in Biomedicine.

Headache and Facial Pain

  • Many clinicians have the heuristic that pain corresponds to elevated blood pressure, but this perspective is overly simplistic. In a new review article, senior authors Sweta Sengupta, MD, and Timothy Collins, MD investigate and debunk misconceptions regarding the effect of pain on blood pressure. Their discussion of pain's effect on blood pressure will help practitioners appropriately diagnose and counsel patients without disproportionately attributing high blood pressure to pain. Read the article in Current Pain and Headache Reports.

Memory Disorders

  • James Burke, MD, PhD, and Brenda Plassman, PhD contributed to a study examining whether the presence of elevated amyloid was associated with changes in care-partner wellbeing. The team examined longitudinal data from nearly 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, finding that elevated amyloid was not associated with significant differences in outcomes, depression, loneliness or burden over time. Read the full study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • A new systematic review and meta-analysis analyzed the risk of all-cause dementia after all-severity traumatic brain injury (TBI) by age, sex, veteran status, and other characteristics. The team found that younger age and male sex, but not veteran status, was associated with higher TBI risk. Brenda Plassman, PhD, contributed to the study, which appears in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Movement Disorders

  • A study in the latest issue of Movement Disorders validates several novel automated measures for capturing key aspects of writer’s cramp dystonia. The study, by senior authors Noreen Bukhari-Parlakturk, MD, PhD, and Nicole Calakos, MD, PhD, as well as Burton Scott, MD, PhD, Michael Lutz, PhD, and colleagues evaluated the diagnostic performance of 23 of these measures, finding that measures of word legibility and peak accelerations distinguished subjects with writers' cramp dystonia from healthy volunteers with high sensitivity and specificity. Read the full article here.

Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology

  • Myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease (MOGAD) is a chronic demyelinating disorder that has been increasingly recognized over the past six years, but many questions remain about the condition, especially about relapses and the best course of treatment. A new article in the Journal of Neuroimmunology discusses the clinical and radiologic presentation and demographics of 33 patients presenting with MOGAD to a single health center. Senior authors Suma Shah, MD, and former Duke Neuroimmunology Fellow Paige Sutton MD, as well as Michael Lutz, PhD, F. Lee Hartsell, MD, MHS, Dorlan Kimbrough, MD, Nathan “Troy” Tagg, MD, Mark Skeen, MD, Nicholas Hudak, PA-C, and Christopher Eckstein, MD, wrote the article, which is available here.


  • Wayne Feng, MD, MS, and Brian Mac Grory, MB BCh, MRCP, contributed to a retrospective cohort study examining whether intra-arterial thrombolysis (IAT) within 16 hours after the onset of symptoms is feasible and associated with better visual outcomes in patients with acute retinal ischemia (ARI). The team found that IAT appears to be associated with better visual improvement within 16 hours after the onset of symptoms and that IAT is also feasible and associated with a low risk of periprocedural complications for ARI. Read the full study in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology.

Stroke and Vascular Neurology

  • Wuwei “Wayne” Feng, MD, MS, contributed to a new study that provides important insights into the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation paired with rehabilitation for improving chronic arm weakness after stroke. The team examined whether treatment effects varied across candidate subgroups, such as younger age or less injury, finding no major differences between those groups. Read the full study in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.
  • Daniel Laskowitz, MD, MHS, and Haichen Wang, MD, contributed to a new literature review examining the effects of physical interventions on pathophysiology and recovery of spinal cord injury. Among other findings, the team found that lower intensity or voluntary rehabilitation during the hyperacute phase appears to be a more appropriate therapy until at least 4 days postinjury, at which point higher-intensity activity becomes safer and more beneficial for recovery. Read the full article in Neurospine.
  • Insertable cardiac monitors (ICM) are frequently used as a long-term strategy to detect atrial fibrillation/flutter (AF) in patients with cryptogenic stroke (CS) and transient ischemic attacks (TIA). However, studies on incidental arrhythmias are limited. Brian Mac Grory, MB BCh, MRCP, contributed to a new study that examined the detection rate of incidental non-AF arrhythmias with ICM monitoring among patients with CS/TIA. The team found that long-term cardiac monitoring appears to frequently detect incidental and actionable non-AF arrhythmias in patients with CS/TIA. Read the full article in the Journal of Atrial Fibrillation & Electrophysiology.

Translational Brain Sciences

  • A new editorial provides guidance on manuscript preparation for topics relating to biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Michael Lutz, PhD, was the first author of the article, which is available here. 
  • Carlene Moore, PhD, wrote a new chapter in the Current Topics in Membranes book series. Her chapter, “the role of TRPV4 channels in cutaneous epithelia,” discusses the roles the transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) plays in skin function as well as its potential for a therapeutic target for chronic pain, itch, and skin cancer. Access that chapter here.
  • Tanziyah Muqeem, MD, PhD, contributed to a new study that provides insights into the Kv3.4 channel, which regulates action potential repolarization in nociceptors and excitatory synaptic transmission in the spinal cord. Muqeem and colleagues found that expression and effective phosphorylation status of the Kv3.4 cytoplasmic N-terminal inactivation domain confer a tunable mechanism of AP repolarization, which may regulate pain signaling in DRG neurons. Read the full article in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Other Topics

  • A new randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial investigated the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of intranasal oxytocin in young children with autism, showing some benefit for treatment effect for younger children and that the treatment was well tolerated. Simon Gregory, PhD, contributed to the study, which appears in Molecular Psychiatry.