Brain & Life Magazine

Brain & Life Magazine is a free publication and website for patients and caregivers from the American Academy of Neurology. It covers a range of topics including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, concussion, Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders, neuropathy, sleep disorders, migraines and much, much more.

 

June/July 2019 Issue

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Singer Gloria Estefan talks about surviving a severe spinal injury
Nearly 30 years after fracturing her back in a bus accident, Gloria Estefan is standing tall. At 61, she's performing to adoring crowds, earning distinguished honors, taking her Broadway show to London's West End, and—perhaps most inspiring—championing new research that enables others who are paralyzed to move and walk again.
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Faces of Stroke
Anyone can experience a stroke, regardless of age, sex, or race. Brain and Life magazine interviews five survivors of a stroke. These five survivors attest, recovery is multifaceted too.
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April/May 2019 Issue

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Actress Rita Wilson, Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association
After her mother died of Alzheimer's disease, actress Rita Wilson volunteered to raise awareness and funds on behalf of others with the illness. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in 2010 was traumatic for Wilson and her siblings. "Being so close to her, seeing her slip away, it was a slow grieving process for our relationship, for her, for that inevitable day in the future," Wilson says. "My mother became like a child, and I became like the parent. The hardest things to witness were her inability to be herself and the loss of her sense of humor."
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Transitioning to Assisted Living
Moving to an assisted living facility can be stressful. These tips will help make the move as smooth as possible. When Carolyn Polchow and her siblings approached their mother with the idea of her moving into an assisted living facility, the matriarch's response was a firm no. Catherine Moore, then in her early eighties, had lived in her San Diego home since 1960, but she was beginning to show signs of dementia. She was getting lost walking around her neighborhood, not going to exercise classes because she'd forgotten how to get there and often refusing to allow a private caretaker into the house, thinking the woman was a stranger.
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February/March 2019 Issue

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Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM)
Actress Marilu Henner has a highly superior autobiographical memory, a rare condition identified in only 100 people worldwide. This trait spurs her to advocate for more funding for brain research. For most people, such vivid memories are usually associated with major life events—your wedding day or the day your child was born—or traumatic moments like where you were when you heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center. Memories of our lives are typically like impressionist paintings, forming an overall picture from a distance but blurry when we try to zoom in and look at specifics.
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How Improvisational Techniques Help Engage Dementia Patients
In the years after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Karen Stobbe remembers listening to a Beatles song and hearing her mother tell her she had dated one of the musicians. Stobbe's initial urge was to dispute her mother's claim as impossible. Instead, she recalled her training as an improvisational actor and replied, “Yes, and tell me which one you dated? What was that like?”
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December/January 2018-2019 Issue

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Humor in a Brain Tumor
Comedy duo Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan say love and laughter have helped them survive the bumps in Jeannie's recovery from a mass near her brainstem.
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Marijuana as Medicine
Researchers do not fully understand how the endocannabinoid system works, but they know it affects many of the body's systems, including the nervous, cardiovascular, reproductive, endocrine, and immune systems. The marijuana plant has more than 100 cannabinoids, compounds chemically similar to the endocannabinoids our bodies produce. These cannabinoids can interact with receptors in the human nervous system, including those in the brain, and play a part in how neurons communicate with one another.
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October/November 2018 Issue

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Mission Possible
The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik encourages girls and young women to love science, on and off screen. Thanks to that biology tutor, Bialik went on to UCLA after Blossom to pursue an undergraduate degree in neuroscience with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies, before getting her doctorate in neuroscience in 2007. But school continued to be challenging. “I was not at the top of the class in college or graduate school,” she says. She persisted, however, because science thrilled her.
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Early Clues
Researchers are making important discoveries about Alzheimer's disease from people who develop it before the age of 65.

When Mike McGuff was in college at Baylor University in Waco, TX, he made a point of calling his mom, Elizabeth, at least once a week. By his senior year, their conversations began to feel a bit “off.” Always known for her wit, vibrancy, and confidence, Elizabeth was now increasingly passive and unsure of herself. In the span of six months, she also had been let go from her longtime job as a fourth-grade teacher because she couldn't keep up.

“I didn't know what was going on,” says McGuff. “Mom thought she was depressed and started seeing a therapist.” The mystery of his mother's rapid mental decline was finally solved in September 1999, about a year after McGuff first started noticing changes in her behavior. At just 53 years old, Elizabeth was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer's disease. “I was in total shock. She was so young. I could never imagine someone getting Alzheimer's at 53. In fact, I don't think I even knew such a thing was possible.” She died from complications related to the disease five years later.
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August/September 2018 Issue

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Partners Against Parkinson's
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl says she and her husband work together to manage his Parkinson's disease—and keep their marriage strong.
Her skills as an investigative reporter—a keen eye for detail, a relentless pursuit of the facts, and a steely resolve—have served 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl well throughout her decades-long career. More recently, she has applied those same skills to help her husband, screenwriter and journalist Aaron Latham, manage his Parkinson's disease.
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Head Drama
When Bennet Omalu, MD, identified a degenerative brain disease in NFL players, it shifted the worlds of both sports and neurology—and protocols about concussion.
Bennet Omalu, MD, MBA, MPH, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist and neuropathologist, brings an almost sacred reverence to his work. His respect toward lifeless bodies is rooted in his medical training, his deeply held Christian beliefs, and his innate compassion, arising from a childhood marked by violence and deprivation following the civil war of the late 1960s and early 1970s in his native country. “Dead people are my patients,” Dr. Omalu says. “I regard them as human beings who must be treated with dignity.” He begins an autopsy by introducing himself to his patient as any other doctor would. “I look at the face and quietly, silently speak to that person.”
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June/July 2018 Issue

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Supporting Role
Actor Courtney B. Vance cared for his mother after she developed ALS. He hopes his story will promote understanding of the disease and emphasize the need for a cure.
Courtney B. Vance, a Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor, can locate the essence of his mother's character in a single, quiet scene. He was a high school senior at Detroit Country Day School, a private college prep school. His mother, Leslie Vance, was a librarian at a neighborhood branch about a mile from their home. “I said something about her ‘little job at the library,’” Vance recalls. “She got quiet, and I recognized immediately that I'd made a mistake.” Flashing her expressive eyes, she said, “Courtney, this ‘little job’ of mine allows you to go to that damn school,” and walked away.
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The Road to Surgery
Surgery is a treatment option for several neurologic disorders. Use our guide to find out if you are a candidate, what to expect, and how to prepare.
Walter Newman was feeling optimistic as he was wheeled into the operating room for deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease in March 2014. “My surgeon had cautioned me that results were not guaranteed, but I'd watched some videos about people who had gotten wonderful results, and I assumed that mine would be just as good,” says the 67-year-old lawyer from Sumter, SC.
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