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Celebrating Neuroscience Research this Brain Awareness Week

This year, Brain Awareness Week was held from 14 to 20 March 2022. Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science.

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London celebrated Brain Awareness Week by showcasing their neuroscience researchers on Twitter. Throughout the week, the IoPPN highlighted the excellent research within the School of Neuroscience to investigate Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, chronic pain, Motor Neuron Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Professor Mark Richardson, Head of the School of Neuroscience, kicked-off Brain Awareness Week:

Today marks the start of Brain Awareness Week 2022 and I am excited to introduce the many brilliant individuals and their great work conducted at the School of Neuroscience. Here in the IoPPN, we work to gain an understanding of how the brain works and how different diseases affect the brain and ultimately affect the whole body. – Professor Mark Richardson, Head of the School of Neuroscience

Parkinson's Disease

Our brains change as we age, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Neurodegenerative disorders are conditions that cause the loss or damage of brain cells and circuits with devastating results. Around 145,000 people live with Parkinson's Disease in the UK alone, and it is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.

Many think Parkinson’s Disease only affects movement, with symptoms such as tremors and rigidity. But other non-motor symptoms also impact everyday life. Researchers at the School of Neuroscience are investigating how we can improve quality of life for people with Parkinson's Disease by targeting symptoms such as problems with bladder and bowel control, eating, swallowing and saliva control, sleeping and many other areas.

One of the symptoms that many people with Parkinson's Disease experience is pain. Researchers at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases are hoping to develop evidence-based interventions to improve patients' quality of life. Senior Lecturer at the Centre, Dr Kirsty Bannister, recently received the 2022 Patrick D. Wall Young Investigator Prize from the International Association for the Study of Pain, which will fund her research into the biology of pain.

Parkinson's Disease has also been associated with visual hallucinations. You can learn more about Miriam Vignando's most recent research investigating the brain mechanisms underlying visual hallucinations here.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the functioning of the brain. Around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally. Epileptic seizures are sudden, intense bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affects how it works.

Researchers at the School of Neuroscience are working to understand the underlying causes of human epilepsies, from faults in specific cell types, to changes across brain circuits. This may also help explain other genetically determined developmental problems often found in people coping with seizures that start in late adolescence or adult life.

Research from the Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience has identified sex-specific factors that are linked to patients' outcomes and responses to drug treatments for epileptic seizures.

Chronic Pain

Usually pain is expected to lessen with time following an injury, but for those who suffer with chronic pain, the brain continues to send out pain signals. Chronic pain can make life unbearable and stop people doing everyday tasks, yet treatments are limited.

Our researchers are investigating the biological mechanisms underlying chronic pain. This will allow us to improve interventions and better support those who are struggling with chronic pain.

Motor Neuron Disease

People with motor neuron disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), develop progressive weakness of speaking, swallowing, limbs and eventually breathing. One in every 300 people will develop ALS/MND, typically in their 50s or 60s. It is a devastating diagnosis with an average life expectancy of just three years.

Researchers at the School of Neuroscience aim to identify the genes involved in ALS/MND, how they change the nervous system structure and function, and what other factors influence disease progression. This will improve understanding of the causes of ALS/MND in order to develop effective interventions.

Dr Ahmad Al Khleifat recently received the 2022 MND Association Non-Clinical Fellowship and the 2022 ALS Association’s Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship to fund research into the biology of ALS/MND. He will be using the Fellowship for a large-scale genetic analysis in ALS/MND.

Alzheimer's Disease

One person is diagnosed with dementia every three minutes, with over 60% having Alzheimer’s Disease. Initial forgetfulness and confusion in the early stages can progress to everyday tasks such as eating, communicating or dressing being impossible. It strips away the memories and personality of those diagnosed.

Our researchers are investigating the underlying causes of Alzheimer's Disease to determine why only some people are affected. They are exploring the mechanisms that lead to disease to discover/isolate events at the cellular level that cause Alzheimer's Disease. Uncovering these mechanisms may hold the answer for providing a window to intervene and stop this disease before it takes a hold.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental Disorder is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which are associated with differences in the functioning of the brain. These include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Tourette's Disorder, among others.

The human brain has 85 billion neurons that underlie every thought, movement, and aspect of life. At the School of Neuroscience, our researchers are investigating how the brain is built and how the connections are made. By understanding how abnormal brain development impacts behaviour, researchers can better understand the neurobiology underlying various Neurodevelopmental Disorders to improve treatments and outcomes.

In this story

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson

Head of School (Neuroscience)

Kirsty Bannister

Kirsty Bannister

Senior Lecturer

Juan Burrone

Professor of Developmental Neurophysiology

Philippa Warren

Philippa Warren

Sir Henry Dale Fellow

Corinne Houart

Professor of Developmental Neurobiology

Maria Jimenez-Sanchez

Maria Jimenez-Sanchez

MRC Career Development Fellow

Laura Andreae

Laura Andreae

Senior Lecturer

Rosalyn Moran

Rosalyn Moran

Reader of Theoretical Neurobiology

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