The Molecular Neurology Program
The mission of the program is to determine the brain composition of a wide variety of persons, both healthy and diseased. This enhanced knowledge base will substantially improve our understanding of the brain, thus enabling better diagnoses and more effective treatment.
While there is extensive knowledge of the microscopic changes in a diseased brain, there is almost nothing known about the specific molecular differences between a normal brain and one with disease – amazing ignorance for the 21st century. We want our physicians to understand and be able to cure disease. Yet, if the compositional changes of disease are unknown, it is not surprising that current diagnoses and treatments are often inadequate.
In this age of new technologies, computers, and the genome information, it is possible to begin mapping out the precise molecular differences between people with brain disease and those with normal brain functioning (defined as having no detectable disease).
The Brain Proteome Project
This is a new, large-scale and long-term brain research project. The Huntington Hospital ethics committee has approved this study for 200 normal participants and 400 participants afflicted with various diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, headache, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Extensive measurements of clinical brain functions of study participants are made on multiple occasions. We will determine the molecular composition of their spinal fluid. Analyzing this information will allow us to discover how individual molecules are related to specific brain functions.
What Is Done?
- Medical and demographic profiling
- Neurophysiological measures (i.e., scalp electrodes and brain wave measurements)
- Neuropsychological ratings (i.e., intelligence, memory, personality, mood and fatigue)
- Neurological and psychiatric assessment
- Neuroimaging (MRI scanning)
- Proteome studies (i.e., electrophoresis, chromatography and mass spectrometry).
Our “honored guests” (110 thus far) are the core of the project. We enroll from the local community, so that visits can be easily scheduled. There is no charge to participants, moreover a small payment is given as a token of our appreciation. Participants are well looked after, lunch is provided, and transportation is available. This research project has no treatment component at this time. Participants should receive any treatments or assessments from their own physicians, as usual.
Procedures take the form of structured interviews and clinical examinations. Molecular studies are then done primarily with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is obtained by standard lumbar puncture (LP). Assessments involve visits of two six-hour days with considerable scheduling flexibility. Visits are repeated every 6-12 months, or when the condition fluctuates, such as during headache and non-headache states, or depression and “well” states.
The program’s goal is to help doctors measure health and make earlier diagnoses of disease. We expect to define new directions for treatment and better predict drug responsiveness for those afflicted with neurological diseases.