NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Physician-Scientists Present at 2007 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Conference in Boston

Weill Cornell Experts Also Available for Commentary on Breaking News and Other Stories at AAN Conference

Apr 27, 2007


NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center physician-scientists are presenting exciting new research at the 2007 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Conference in Boston, April 28-May 5. Among the most significant presentations are the following:

Non-Motor Predictors of Parkinson's Disease – An AAN Movement Disorders Scientific Topic Highlight [P01.127]
Tuesday, May 1, 7:00-10:00 a.m.
Authors: Melissa J. Nirenberg, Angela Y. Shih, Christine E. Boxhorn, Claire Henchcliffe, et al.

Anxiety, depression and sleep disorders – invisible symptoms of Parkinson's disease – are common, often under-diagnosed, and may be more distressing to patients than physical disabilities, like shaking, slowness and stiffness – symptoms most often associated with the disease.

Dr. Melissa Nirenberg, a physician-scientist and expert on Parkinson's disease at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, will be presenting research about these "non-motor" symptoms of Parkinson's disease on Tuesday morning. The work was deemed of special importance and interest to the attendees, and selected for presentation in the AAN Movement Disorders Scientific Topic Highlights on Thursday evening. Her research shows that Parkinson's disease patients who make frequent telephone calls to their physician tend to have raised levels of anxiety and depression, a higher prevalence of sleep disorders, and a lower quality of life than other Parkinson's disease patients, but similar or mild physical disability. Thus, patients who appear physically healthy may have severe psychiatric manifestations of the disease.

Based on these preliminary findings, Dr. Nirenberg recommends that physicians routinely ask Parkinson's disease patients about whether they have emotional symptoms, even when they look healthy and have minimal physical disability. She believes that earlier treatment of these non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease may decrease health-care utilization and improve patient quality of life. Her ongoing research will examine how these non-motor symptoms change over time, and whether reducing anxiety and depression might potentially slow the rate of disease progression.

Mutations in MitochondriaDNA May Play Important Role in Parkinson's Disease [P03.009]
Tuesday, May 1, 4:00-7:30 p.m.
Authors: Michael Lin, Lichuan Yang, Flint Beal, et al.

Errors in DNA found in the mitochondria (mtDNA) – the energy source in cells – may play a role in the brains of those with Parkinson's disease, according to novel research from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center scientists. Drs. Michael Lin and Flint Beal, first and senior author, respectively, of the ongoing study, will present research findings on human brain tissue that may elucidate mtDNA's special role.

Prior research has shown no difference between the mtDNA of elderly Parkinson's patients and those without the disease.

However, this new research shows that the brains of early-stage Parkinson's patients have more than twice the amount of mtDNA mutations when compared to aged controls and late-stage patients. One possible explanation is that brain tissue has been destroyed in late-stage patients, but is still observable and abundant in early-stage, because the neurons have yet to die as a result of the mutations. This evidence points to the likely importance of mtDNA mutations in the severity and progression of Parkinson's disease, making mitochondrial DNA a potential target for therapeutic interventions.

Sparse Psychiatric Coverage for Epilepsy Sufferers [P02.128]
Tuesday, May 1, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Authors: Cynthia L. Harden, Bill Nikolov, Sona Narula, Kenneth Perrine

As many as 50 percent of epilepsy patients have mood and anxiety disorders, according to Dr. Cynthia Harden, lead presenter and epilepsy expert from NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. Yet, neurologists often assume the responsibility of treating mood disorders in persons with epilepsy, at least in part due to inadequate health insurance coverage for psychiatric treatment.

Of the epilepsy specialists surveyed, only 21 percent said that referring their patients to psychiatric care was not an obstacle. Such barriers in providing patients health care are forcing doctors to take psychiatric matters into their own hands.

Dr. Harden says that having proper psychiatric health care for these patients is particularly important because of the complexity and fluctuating course of their mood symptoms, making psychiatric monitoring imperative in these individuals. She believes that insurance companies should recognize the vital link between epilepsy and mood disorders and provide coverage for such cases.

Experts Available for Commentary on Breaking News and Other Stories at AAN Conference
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell experts are available for commentary on the following topics and breaking news (see AAN Press Kit for specifics) at the 2007 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Conference in Boston:

  • Exercise May Lower Risk for Parkinson's Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease Linked to Nerve Damage
  • Sleep Strengthens Your Memory
  • Good News for Rural Stroke Patients: Telephone Treatment Works
  • Young Children with Epilepsy Seizures Could Benefit from Animal Model of Disease
  • Dopamine-Related Drugs Affect Reward-Seeking Behavior
  • Over Time, More Women Are Developing MS Than Men
  • Depression May Be Early Sign of Parkinson's Disease
  • Brain Scans of Symptomatic Gulf War Veterans Show Differences
  • Secondhand Smoke Increases Risk of Dementia
  • Studies Suggest Investigational Agent Reduces Disease Activity in MS
  • No Link Found Between Autism and Celiac Disease
  • Migraines During Pregnancy Linked to Stroke and Other Vascular Diseases
  • Does Amateur Boxing Cause Brain Damage?
  • Estrogen Use Before 65 Linked to Reduced Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
  • Children from Low-Income Families More Likely to Have Sleep Problems
  • Stroke Risk Nearly Doubles for Siblings of People Who Have Had a Stroke
  • Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Reduce Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack
  • Drinking Heavy Amounts of Alcohol Shrinks Your Brain
  • For Iraq Veterans, Migraines May Be Sign of Other Problems
  • Lower IQ Found in Children of Women Who Took Epilepsy Drug
  • Vaccine Prevents Prion Disease in Mice

Among the Weill Cornell experts available to comment on the above topics are:

Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., Dean & Prof. of Cardiovascular Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Flint Beal, Professor of Neurology, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
Dr. Costantino Iadecola, Chief, Neurobiology, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
Dr. Philip Stieg, Chairman of Neurological Surgery & Neurosurgeon in Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell

Media Contact:

Andrew Klein