Methodist, Neurological Institute, University of Houston Combine 'Brain Power'

Event Focuses on Neuroscience Collaboration Ranging from Embryonic Brain Development to Spinal Cord Injury Therapy

The human brain is often considered to be the last frontier in modern medicine. Now, academia and medicine are joining forces to find out how to understand and cure many of the disorders affecting the brain and nervous system.

The Methodist Neurological Institute (NI) and the University of Houston are determined to be leaders in basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research. The two institutions will hold a two-day Neuroscience Colloquium, Nov. 28-29, to discuss possible collaborations on research projects that could one day lead to treatments for neurological diseases and disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain aneurysms, and more.

“ Medical science is in the midst of an explosion of knowledge about the brain,” said Dr. Stanley Appel, co-chair of the conference’s planning committee, co-founder of the Methodist NI, and chair of neurology at The Methodist Hospital. “By combining medicine and academics, we can explore the brain on two fronts: discovering deeper levels of molecular functioning and exploring and monitoring the higher levels of cognitive function – the study of our minds, of what makes us uniquely human.”

Methodist NI physicians in neurology, neurosurgery, and neuroradiology will join UH professors in psychology, biology, biochemistry, computer science, engineering, pharmacy, optometry, and health and human performance to present neuroscience research during the conference held at The Hilton University of Houston Hotel and Conference Center, 4800 Calhoun, on the UH campus.

“ The partnership between UH and Methodist has the potential to lead to important discoveries in molecular medicine, especially in the area of neuroscience,” said Stuart Dryer, co-chair of the conference’s planning committee and chair of the department of biology and biochemistry at UH. “We hope that this colloquium is the first of many such events. As a result of planning for this meeting, Dr. Appel and I have discovered that we have many research interests in common, and we are already discussing some joint projects.”

Methodist NI research presentations will include new therapies for spinal cord injury; movement disorders and deep brain stimulation; technological challenges in neurosurgery; trends in neuro-imaging; innovations in endovascular therapy; inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease; and the neurobiology of music.

UH researchers will present several new techniques for brain and neuron imaging; molecular studies on embryonic brain development; mechanisms of nerve cell signaling; studies on how brain function changes as a result of experience; brain mechanisms controlling vision and language; and engineering approaches to understanding normal brain function. Five of the six colleges on campus involved in neuroscience research – natural sciences and mathematics, engineering, pharmacy, optometry, and education – will be presenting at this first colloquium between Methodist NI and the university.

“ Many medical schools have scientists engaged in basic biological research,” Dryer said. “This partnership is somewhat special because of the added value of bringing engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and other university academicians into close partnership with clinical scientists at a major research hospital.”

The Methodist Neurological Institute houses the practice and research activities of the Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Neuroradiology of The Methodist Hospital. The close collaboration between these departments offers patients the most advanced treatment options currently available. The mission of the NI is to advance the discovery of the origins, mechanisms, and treatment of neurological disease and to provide comprehensive care for patients with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord.

The Methodist Hospital is one of the nation’s largest private, non-profit general hospitals. Methodist is primarily affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian. The hospital also is affiliated with the University of Houston.

The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic, and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research, and service with more than 35,000 students.