Washington People: Gammon Earhart

Gammon Earhart, PhD, a professor in the Program in Physical Therapy at the School of Medicine, works to restore movement to patients with Parkinson’s disease. Arguably her most significant contributions as a researcher have been her studies demonstrating the benefits of tango dancing on patients with Parkinson’s. Freedom of movement, it turns out, has become a theme of sorts for Earhart — professionally and personally.

Receptor may aid spread of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in brain

School of Medicine scientists have found a way that corrupted, disease-causing proteins spread in the brain, potentially contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain-damaging disorders. Pictured are clumps of corrupted tau protein outside a nerve cell, as seen through an electron micrograph.

Washington People: Kevin Black

Kevin Black’s family didn’t have any physicians in it. Well, one of his great-great-grandfathers had a medical license back in the late 1800s, but he had no formal training — and Black himself wasn’t planning on medical school. But during his first year of college, a teacher helped change his career plans.

Brain scans show effects of Parkinson’s drug

Neuroscientists using a new brain imaging technique could see an investigational drug for Parkinson’s disease get into a patient’s brain and affect blood flow in several key structures, an indicator the drug may be effective. In the future, similar brain scans could speed the development of new drugs and help clinicians learn whether established drugs are working.  

Tweet: Scientists decode songbird’s genome

Nearly all animals make sounds instinctively, but baby songbirds learn to sing in virtually the same way human infants learn to speak: by imitating a parent. Now, an international team of scientists, led by the School of Medicine, has decoded the genome of a songbird — the Australian zebra finch — to reveal intriguing clues about the genetic basis and evolution of vocal learning. 

Brain region learns to anticipate risk, provides early warnings, suggests new study in Science

Joshua Brown of WUSTLA new theory suggests that the brain may subconsciously help us avoid risky situations.While some scientists discount the existence of a sixth sense for danger, new research from Washington University in St. Louis has identified a brain region that clearly acts as an early warning system — one that monitors environmental cues, weighs possible consequences and helps us adjust our behavior to avoid dangerous situations. “Our brains are better at picking up subtle warning signs than we previously thought,” says WUSTL research psychologist Joshua Brown, co-author of a study on these findings in the Feb. 18 issue of the journal Science.

Brain region learns to anticipate risk, provides early warnings, suggests new study in Science

Joshua Brown of WUSTLA new theory suggests that the brain may subconsciously help us avoid risky situations.While some scientists discount the existence of a sixth sense for danger, new research from Washington University in St. Louis has identified a brain region that clearly acts as an early warning system — one that monitors environmental cues, weighs possible consequences and helps us adjust our behavior to avoid dangerous situations. “Our brains are better at picking up subtle warning signs than we previously thought,” says WUSTL research psychologist Joshua Brown, co-author of a study on these findings in the Feb. 18 issue of the journal Science.

‘Visualizing’ Tourette Syndrome

Sophisticated brain imaging reveals that several brain regions can become overactivated when people with Tourette Syndrome perform tasks related to memory.Neuroscience researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are studying the brains of patients with Tourette Syndrome (TS) to see whether they can use sophisticated imaging techniques to identify differences in the dopamine system of people with the tics that characterize TS. A team of researchers, led by Kevin J. Black, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, neurology and radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, is using PET imaging to see what the brain does in response to levodopa, a natural amino acid that has been used for many years to treat movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. With PET imaging, the researchers can measure the boost in the brain’s dopamine levels in response to the drug both in people with Tourette Syndrome and in those who do not have tics. By identifying differences, they hope to isolate the causes of tics and to help people with TS control or eliminate them.