Q & As

Q&As with scientists on their research and its applications or special topics in the field.


Q&A with John Ioannides

His PLoS Medicine paper published in 2005 is the most accessed and downloaded paper in the journal’s history (with approximately 1.5 million hits) and his current citation-impact (exceeding 20,000 new citations in the scientific literature every year) is among the highest of all scientists. John P.S. Ioannidis, M.D., D.Sc. the author of November’s Cerebrum article, “Failure to Replicate: Sound the Alarm,” discusses why most biomedical research papers (including even many of the most influential ones) later turn out to be wrong or exaggerated—and what can be done about it. The Q&A is also based on responses from talks sponsored by PloS and Stanford University.

High-Tech Imaging Targets Brain Damage in Kids with Malaria

Despite being a common disease, little is known about how malaria affects children’s brains. Using high-field MRI to scan children in sub-Saharan Africa, Dana grantee Michael Potchen and his team shed light on what may cause malaria-related brain swelling, which can lead to death and morbidity.

Binge-Eating Disorder: Q&A with Alice V. Ely, Ph.D. and Anne Cusak, Psy.D.

Researchers suspect that many more people suffer from binge-eating disorder (BED) than from anorexia and bulimia, but that cultural insensitivity and the lack of insurance coverage for treatment means that the disorder remains an invisible killer. In “The Binge and the Brain,” October's Cerebrum article, our authors lean on their research and clinical experience to discuss the state of BED neurobiological underpinnings and advances in treatment that can come from behavioral interventions that target and better understand mechanisms in the brain.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Q&A with Theodore J. Cicero

The current state of dependence is covered in "Prescription Drug Abuse: No End in Sight,” September's Cerebrum article. Author Theodore J. Cicero, Ph.D., traces the history and evolution of narcotics and leans on his own research, clinical, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) experience to discuss an issue that many think has reached epidemic proportions.

Schizophrenia: Q&A with Patrick F. Sullivan

Baby steps may become giant steps in the next ten years for schizophrenia, an illness which impacts an estimated 2.4 million Americans and 1 in 100 people worldwide. While drugs have limited impact and there is no known cure, advances in genetics are opening new doors, thanks in part to an international consortium co-founded in July 2014 by psychiatric geneticist Patrick F. Sullivan, M.D., FRANZCP. In this month’s Cerebrum, “Schizophrenia: Hope on the Horizon,” the author writes about how the largest biological experiment in the history of psychiatry opened new avenues for exploring the biological underpinnings of schizophrenia and why he and his colleagues believe, after years of frustration, that new insights are coming soon.

Imaging of Cognitive Impairment from Soccer Heading-Related Brain Injury

Study indicates there may be a heading threshold above which the risk for brain damage increases significantly

Dana Foundation grantee Michael Lipton is looking at the cumulative effect of heading impacts by monitoring changes in brain structure and function with diffusion tensor imaging and cognitive tests.

On Purpose in Life: Q&A with Adam Kaplin

Adam Kaplin, MD, PhD, is co-author of this month’s Cerebrum feature, "New Movement in Neuroscience: A Purpose-Driven Life.” Purpose in Life (PIL) is a research area that links the belief that your life has meaning and purpose to a robust and persistently improved physiological health outcome—particularly as a way to treat dementia, spinal cord injuries, stroke, and immunological and cardiovascular issues that include but extend beyond the brain.

The Mysteries of Tau: Q&A with Kenneth S. Kosik

Kenneth S. Kosik, MD, was a member of one of several research groups that originally discovered tau protein in the Alzheimer’s neurofibrillary tangle. In May's Cerebrum feature, “Tau-er of Power,” he points out that if he and other tau researchers can better understand tau, then progress can be made in fighting neurological disorders linked to this protein, including frontotemporal dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and Alzheimer’s disease.

Targeting Inflammatory Diseases With Electrical Signals

Devices, Not Drugs, Take Aim at Vagus Nerve

Dana grantee Kevin J. Tracey, a pioneer of “bioelectric medicine,” and his colleagues are testing vagus nerve stimulation devices for possible use in severe rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Individual Differences in the Brain: Q&A with George F. Koob

Why do some alcohol drinkers transition to addiction while other do not? Why do some soldiers returning from war suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while other do not? George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism Abuse (NIAAA), is one of the pioneers of research on the neurobiology and neurochemistry of emotional behavior. His work to better understand the way genetics and neurochemicals affect our brains has the potential to provide insight into addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other stresses that impact countless lives. He wrote the April Cerebrum essay, “The Darkness Within: Individual Differences in Stress.”

On the Power of Storytelling and the Brain: Q&A with Paul Zak

How does a link between narrative and oxytocin release have the power to shape our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors? That's one of the topics of the February Cerebrum article, "Why Inspiring Stories Make Us React: The Neuroscience of Narrative.” We ask some questions of its author, Paul J. Zak, PhD.

On Marijuana: Q&A with Sir Robin Murray

Are different strains and synthetic cannabinoids especially dangerous? That's the subject of January’s Cerebrum article, "Appraising the Risks of Reefer Madness.” We ask some questions of its author, Sir Robin Murray, MD.


Probing Synaptic Pruning

Immune Cells Play Unexpected Roles in Normal Brain Development and Disease

Dana grantee Beth Stevens, Ph.D., discusses the unexpected roles immune cells play in normal brain development and disease.

On Revolution: Q&A with Wise Young

What would the next scientific revolution look like? That's the subject of the December 2014 Cerebrum article, "You Say You Want a Revolution.” We ask a few questions of co-author Wise Young.

Brain Games: Q&A with Walter R. Boot and Arthur F. Kramer

Brain games—a billion-dollar industry whose revenues are predicted to surpass $6 billion by 2020—is the subject of the November 2014 Cerebrum article, “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Training Really Sharpen the Mind?” We ask a few questions of Walter R. Boot, Ph.D., an associate professor at Florida State University, and Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D., director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology and the Swanlund Chair and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois.

On Empathy: Q&A with Peggy Mason

Empathy—the ability to perceive and share another person's emotional state—is the subject of the October 2014 Cerebrum article “With A Little Help from My Friends: How the Brain Processes Empathy.” Answering questions about her research and the latest on this aspect of social neuroscience is Peggy Mason, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago and the author of Medical Neurobiology. Mason, whose lab is currently interested in empathetic healing and helping behavior in rats, also offers an open online course, “Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life.”

Music, Art, and Cognitive Benefit: Separating Fact from Fallacy

Dana grantee Elizabeth Spelke discusses the future direction of arts and cognition research, and puts into perspective the media attention given to her recently published study on the effects of music classes on math abilities in children.

What Neuroimaging Really Measures

Parsing Out An ‘Anticipatory’ Brain State Improves Relevance of fMRI Signals to Neural Activity

The way fMRIs currently measure neural activity may be more complex than widely thought. Dana Foundation grantee Aniruddha Das explains how he showed that fMRI measures multiple types of neural activity, and how this finding could lead to clearer interpretation of imaging results.

Dying to Regrow

Dissecting the Role of Programmed Cell Death in Spinal Cord Regeneration

Programmed cell death has been viewed traditionally as a process that needs to be turned off in spinal cord injury, but research from Dana grantee Aravinthan Samuel’s laboratory at Harvard suggests that it may play a critical role in axon regeneration.


Imaging Early MS

New MRI Technique Reveals Potential Biomarker of Inflammation and Target for Less Toxic Multiple Sclerosis Treatments

Dana grantee John Chen discusses how a new MRI technique reveals a potential biomarker of inflammation and a target for less toxic multiple sclerosis treatments.

The Drunken Brain

MRS imaging yields clues to alcohol’s neural effects

Visualizing Hearing

Brain Imaging May Improve Outcomes in Deaf Children with Cochlear Implants

Dana grantee John S. Oghalai, M.D., talks about his use of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy as a diagnostic tool to improve cochlear implants in deaf children. He shares his team’s progress and what the new use of this technology may mean for children with these implants.

Deep Brain Stimulation for Severe Depression

New results suggest it works, but how?


Tracking the Tracts

Rare Disease Yields Clues to Early Myelin Development

The current treatment for a baby diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare and often fatal neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the motor system, can be very effective, but it also carries a 30 percent chance of death. Dana grantee Maria Escolar’s research may provide a better way to diagnose and treat infants with this and other motor diseases before the onset of visible symptoms, when treatment works best.

Ignorance and the Undertreatment of Addiction: Lessons from Prison

Dana grantee Charles O’Brien discusses his research to combat alcoholism and drug addiction using naltrexone and his frustration at the reluctance of many doctors to treat addiction with medication.

Sleep, Aging & Alzheimer’s

New Genetic Findings Reveal Clues to the Brain’s ‘Sleep Switch’

Dana grantee Clifford Saper, Harvard University, discusses his research into the connection between sleep problems in aging and an area of the brain known as the “sleep switch.”

Mirror Therapy for Phantom Limb Pain

Brain Imaging Study Aims to Unravel How Reflective ‘Trick’ Relieves Amputees’ Pain

Dana grantee Jack Tsao, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, discusses his research into how mirror therapy can relieve phantom limb pain suffered by amputees.


Bioethics in the Classroom

An Interview with Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. and Dominic Sisti, Ph.D.

The High School Bioethics Project aims to increase discussions about bioethics in high school classrooms through a combination of curriculum development, online initiatives, and outreach programs. In our grantee Q&A, Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., and Dominic Sisti, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania discuss the project, started in 2007.

Separating the Bad from the Good in Neuroimmunology

Dana grantee Michael Dustin, one of the world's foremost authorities on visualizing immune response in nervous systems, describes the new imaging techniques he and his colleagues are using to study the behavior of T cells in real time in mouse models of meningitis and multiple sclerosis.

A Glimpse of Stem Cells in the Living Human Brain

Dana grantee Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, Baylor College of Medicine, discusses the novel method she and her team are pioneering to track neurogenesis–the growth of new neurons–in the living human brain.

Shifting Paradigms for Intensive Care of Severe Brain Injury

Dana grantee Stephan Mayer discusses the approach he and his team are pioneering to monitor brain function in patients with critical neurological injuries.


Alzheimer’s and Dementia in Minority Populations

Unraveling Risks, Overcoming Barriers

Dr. Patrick A. Griffith, professor of clinical medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, offers a comprehensive look at Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in minority populations.

Will ‘Rubi the Robot’ Be the Ultimate Teacher’s Aide? Machine Learning and the Transformation of Education

Terrence J. Sejnowski, a computational neurobiologist at the University of California, San Diego, explains how “one of the great success stories in all of neuroscience and engineering over the last decade” could someday impact classrooms around the world. Stressing the importance of social learning, Dr. Sejnowski details the development of socially engaging robots and explains how these robots could transform the future of education by providing an individualized curriculum for every student.