A joint research project between the Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine is evaluating the use of meditation to decrease pain after spine surgery. This particular meditation technique has been shown in clinical trials to reduce patient’s need for pain medication for those with chronic pain, and has been shown to reduce people’s perception of the severity of a painful stimulus. Arthur L. Jenkins, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, and Patricia Bloom, MD, associate professor in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, devised a research trial to see if teaching this technique to patients could reduce the amount of pain medicine needed to manage their pain after spine surgery.
Research in Mark Baxter’s laboratory, the Glickenhaus Laboratory of Neuropsychology, focuses on the neural systems underlying memory and other higher cognitive functions, and understanding how disturbances in these systems impair cognitive function in brain disorders. Our general approach is to study the effects on behavior of specific manipulations of neural circuits in animal models, to gain insight into how similar disruptions in human disease may be responsible for cognitive impairment.
In recent years there have been major breakthroughs in the identification of novel molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of brain disorders. For instance, thanks to state-of-the-art molecular techniques, current stem cell research not only allows in-vitro recapitulation of disease expression, but also for the discovery of novel disease-associated cellular mechanisms.
We all know that it is easier to learn a new language or musical instrument as a child rather than in adulthood. At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills and sensation to higher cognitive processes like language – than it does during childhood. This experience-dependent process occurs at distinct time windows called “critical periods”, which are times of great opportunity but also of great vulnerability for the developing brain. Early disruption of proper sensory or social experiences will result in mis-wired circuits that will respond sub-optimally to normal experiences in the future. Comparable effects are also seen for the development of vision, where if a child’s binocular vision is compromised and not corrected before the age of eight, amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) is permanent and irreversible.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the use of marijuana, or cannabis, can negatively impact the developing brains of approximately one in four adolescents, according to researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the University of Montreal.
The study, published in the August 16, 2013, issue of Neuropharmacology, highlights that the younger the user of cannabis, the more susceptible he or she is to delinquency, lower educational attainment, difficulty in conforming to an adult role, and mental health issues.
Every year, more than 1 million Americans develop liver damage caused by prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and dietary and herbal supplements. The condition, known as drug-induced liver injury (DILI), can result in severe liver disease that requires transplantation. There are no tests to predict who is at risk, or to help physicians make an early diagnosis, which would prevent progressive liver damage.
For most of us the word brain is synonymous with nerve cells or neurons. All of us are well familiar with the notion of the brain as a mega-computer where billions of neurons govern our life, from simplest tasks to the rare moments of discoveries. It may appear surprising to hear that the function of brain and neurons would not be possible without cells that do not participate in our thinking directly. Instead, these cells, that are called microglia, function as watchdogs of neuron’s functionality and health and remove neurons that stop acting properly.
Music is Medicine is a nonprofit run by a team of college students that pairs artists with pediatric patients through uplifting music programs. Through Music is Medicine’s Donate a Song project, artists write and record original songs for seriously-ill children to inspire the patients, share their stories of strength, and contribute to the greater fight against their diseases.
This past summer, Cindy, a 16 year-old girl battling cancer at the Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, met artists Sam Tsui and Elle Winter. The artists then went on to produce an original song called “Unsinkable” for Cindy. In the chorus Sam and Elle sing, “My heart’s unsinkable. Never doubt that things will get better. Can you feel the love? I’m never giving up.” Through the song, Sam and Elle motivate Cindy and people everywhere to never give up. At the same time, all proceeds for the song will benefit pediatric oncology research at Mount Sinai.
What is the future of stem cell research? Embryonic cells were once so controversial that President George W. Bush limited federal funding in 2001 (a policy that was overturned by President Obama in 2009). Now there is a new type of stem cell, similar to embryonic stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells. We’ve all heard the claims concerning the extraordinary potential of stem cells (be they embryonic or induced) in the treatment of human disease. What will be the first commonly used stem cell therapy?