From a pediatric neurology associate to a neuroscientist to an associate professor of neurosurgery, researchers across the West coast are looking to one another for answers to a big question: How can neurology and neurosurgeons improve their practices?
They are part of an increasingly competitive field where the skills and knowledge of their peers are increasingly valued, said Dr. Karen Kuehl, director of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a senior fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“There is a real need to collaborate across all levels of expertise,” said Kuell, who is also president of the Neurology Association of the West.
“You need to understand the neuroscience and neurosurgical field in a way that is both accessible and is not going to diminish the quality of care that we provide.”
A few of the best neurologists in the world have joined forces with neuroscientists to work with pediatric neurologists to develop innovative approaches to neurosurgically treat patients, said Kuleana Henson, an associate dean at Stanford University’s Department of Neurology and a member of the Neurosciences Coordinating Committee.
“I think the neurology is in some ways at the forefront of what we do,” she said.
“It is really a collaborative effort.
It is incredibly complex. “
The brain is a unique organ.
It is incredibly complex.
It has a lot going on.”
While neurologists have had a history of collaborating with neurosurgeon-in-training, this is the first time they have been able to work together on a large-scale project, said Brian Schiller, director and senior vice president of neurologic sciences at the Mayo Clinic.
“It is an exciting time to be a neurosurgeist in the West, because we are now in the early stages of this kind of collaboration,” he said.
“We’re not at the beginning of this journey yet, but we’re certainly on the path.”
Researchers in other areas are trying to emulate the success of neurologists, Schiller said.
For example, Dr. Michael Pascual-Leone, a neuroskeletal surgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is using an MRI-based technique to look at the brains of patients with epilepsy and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Pascullo-Leones research focuses on the role of the immune system in the development of epilepsy.
“Epilepsy is a disease where the immune response to the brain is triggered, so it is important to understand how that can be improved,” Pascua-León said.
Pescullo Leones research also focuses on understanding how to use imaging to improve the quality and effectiveness of the care that neurologists receive.
“If you look at brain imaging, you can see that epilepsy is one of the rare diseases where we have a strong correlation with the immune and the brain, so that is the kind of imaging we are interested in,” he added.
Pascullos research also involves studying brain imaging of people with multiple sclerosis.
A team at Stanford and Mayo have shown that the immune reaction to the lesion can be significantly improved with CT scans.
“Our research group has demonstrated that a CT scan can identify specific brain regions in MS patients with multiple myeloma, which is one in 20 people,” Pesculla-Leónas said.
Pescullos work also has been applied to treating spinal cord injuries, with the University of Michigan using MRI to identify areas of spinal cord injury that were not detected using other imaging techniques.
“The MRI is the gold standard for the diagnosis of spinal injury, because it’s the first, and only, way to diagnose spinal cord damage,” Piscullo said.
While neurological research is a top priority in neurology across the nation, a major obstacle remains: money.
There are currently more than 1,000 neurologists nationwide, but they are only a fraction of the total number of neuroskeptics working in the field, Schilling said.
There is also a shortage of experienced neurologists who are willing to devote time to research and training.
Schiller said the lack of funding for neurology research in the U.S. has resulted in some researchers being forced to close or move their operations.
“When you look across the United States, there are a number of neurologist-initiated projects and projects that are either not funded, are in limbo, or are stalled or are in a deadlock,” he noted.
“These are things that are really affecting the field.”
Schiller, a member to the Neuroskeletons Coordinating Council, said the neuroscience field is experiencing rapid change.
“I think there are two types of change that we’re seeing,” he told The Washington Post.