Neuroscience “is a priority” at Stanford University, the school’s president said Saturday during a panel on “Gray Matters.”
The roundtable on brain research, and how it can be applied in everyone’s life, was moderated by ABC News’ Juju Chang, a Stanford alumni.
The panel included Stanford President John Hennessy; ABC News’ Bob Woodruff, who sustained a traumatic brain injury while reporting in Iraq; Carla Schatz, a Stanford professor of biology and neurobiology; Dr. Frank Longo, chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences; and Jill Bolte Taylor, a scientist who survived a massive stroke and now specializes in post mortem probes of the brain.
Hennessy called brain studies “the great new frontier for research.” The panel talked about neuroscience, which generally is trying to find ways to halt losses in cognitive abilities, be it from a TBI or Alzheimer’s or aging.
Schatz pointed out that a baby or child’s early experiences create connections in the brain, but that those connections are “pruned” if they aren’t used frequently. During the roundtable, she said if scientists could understand how the brain loses its connections in early life, they could perhaps learn how to deal with the lose of such connections in people who have dementia.
The panel also discussed a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps enable the brain to form and maintain synapses, the link between brain cells. The elderly and those with Alzheimer’s have lower levels of BDNF. But research shows that exercise increases BDNF levels.
And our mom was apparently right when she told you to get plenty of sleep. At the roundtable Taylor said that during sleep the brain reinforces the new connections it made during the day.
Woodruff related his experiences of life after TBI. He couldn’t remember his kids’ names or the names of any states.
Taylor said she made progress recovering from her stroke when people looked her in the eye and touched her. She advocates that kind of approach for those who are dealing with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Taylor’s advice is to enter their reality, not try to force them to conform to your’s.