Neurobiology of Disease


  Themes 2012


The neurobiology of disease refers to fundamental genetic, molecular, cellular, systems, and behavioral abnormalities that contribute to the manifestations of disease. From a practical perspective, disease-oriented research is not necessarily the same thing as the currently popular term, translational research. Any research that is directed at a specific disease or disease manifestation is often called "translational", but NIH has a more narrow definition i.e. any research that involves human subjects or that has immediate application to clinical therapies (e.g. clinical trials). Unfortunately, many areas of neurological and psychiatric disease still lack the fundamental insights or technology required for therapeutic application. Likewise, there are many examples where "undirected" basic research has led to clinical breakthroughs. Thus in neuroscience there is room (and great need) for both basic research as well as translational research. This course is a "sampler" so participants should not expect to walk away with a comprehensive understanding on any one disease or disease mechanism, but rather we hope to impart an appreciation of the impact of disease on patients, and an understanding of the potential links between basic science and disease mechanisms.

The introductory session overviews this spectrum, beginning with a discussion of neurobiological mechanisms that underlie neuropsychiatric disease. We will also discuss how clinicians gather information and make diagnoses. The second session in the introduction will provide an overview of clinical trials.


Neurodegeneration (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease)

This theme will examine topical issues in neurodegenerative disease, using Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease as the clinical focal points. We will interview patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and overview the clinical manifestations and underlying mechanisms. We will also discuss therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases using Alzheimer's disease as an example, and the developing technology of gene therapy using cells and viruses. Kenneth Kosik from the University of California at Santa Barbara will discuss his work with families with early onset Alzheimer's in Columbia and recent studies involving tau protein.


Mitochondria and Energetics (stroke, peripheral neuropathy)

Mitochondria not only produce energy for cells including neurons, but also regulate such processes as calcium homeostasis and cell death. The role of mitochondria in a wide spectrum of neurological disorders is being increasingly recognized. This theme will begin with an overview of mitochondrial energetics in neurons. Jungers' symposium speaker Tim Murphy from University of British Columbia will then discuss in vivo imaging of cortical circuits in response to ischemia. Robert Baloh from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles will discuss his work on the role of mitochondria in the pathophysiology of peripheral nerve disease. Two clinical sessions will present an overview of stroke in the adult, and the special case of perinatal inchemic injury.


Injury and Repair (Multiple Sclerosis)

Understanding neural injury and facilitating repair of damaged or degenerating nervous system poses a number of daunting scientific challenges, even though we have made great progress in understanding neural plasticity and repair mechanisms. This theme will examine axonal injury and repair, particularly focusing on the use of model organisms. Our clinical focus for this theme will be multiple sclerosis (MS). Sessions on MS will include a clinical overview of the neuroimmunology of the disease and its treatment, and we will interview a patient with MS. During the second week of this theme, we will explore experimental systems that are investigating the response of the nervous system to injury, and the capacity for axonal regeneration.


Clinical Rounds

During this week students will be matched for a 1/2 day with a clinician on the inpatient wards, the neuroscience intensive care unit or one of the subspecialty neurology clinics. This opportunity will allow students to see how neurological health care is delivered and some of the issues that face patients and clinicians on day-to-day basis. In final session of this theme, we will share the experiences of the week.