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In This Issue:
For the first time, BWH joined the festivities of the annual Cambridge Science Festival, a 10-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and math held throughout Boston and Cambridge. As part of the festival and BWH’s ongoing BluePrint celebration, the BWH Biomedical Research Institute organized a session on April 16, featuring experts in neurology and psychiatry. Attendees from the public and BWH filled the Shapiro Breakout Room and Shapiro Boardroom, excited to learn about the latest in neuroscience research.
BWH speakers covered topics ranging from the pros and cons of taking anti-epilepsy drugs during pregnancy to diagnosing mental disorders in the 21st century.
“I want to share how important the brain is in the functioning of the whole body,” said Martin Samuels, MD, chairman of BWH’s Department of Neurology, who discussed how interactions between the brain and heart may produce a particular form of heart cell damage. “The brain is in charge of everything. We are who we are because of our brains.”
James Cartreine, PhD, of BWH’s Department of Psychiatry, later took the audience somewhere they likely had never traveled before: outer space. When NASA noticed depression in astronauts, Cartreine wanted to help address the issue. He knew that depression could be treated with medications and psychotherapy, but a question he asked himself was, “Could software treat depression as well?”
Cartreine spoke about a collection of interactive software programs he developed that helps astronauts deal with psychosocial problems that may occur while in space. One of his programs, electronic problem-solving treatment, or ePST, is also being rolled out to the public to help improve mood and enjoyment of life in patients with depression.
Howard Weiner, MD, of BWH’s Center for Neurological Diseases, closed the event with a talk that introduced a new perspective on microglial cells—immune cells in the brain and spinal cord that help protect the brain. Weiner’s research shows that the absence of these cells may be an indicator for various diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is characterized by loss of muscle movement control.