One of the most fascinating frontiers in science isn’t far away at all. It’s right in our own head.
Ironically, our brain and nervous system are so complicated that we still don’t understand enough about them.
Neurological disorders affect us in many different ways. They cut off sensory input, they make it difficult or impossible to move our muscles, and they impair cognitive function both early and late in life. Learning more about how our brains and nerves work is vital to developing effective preventions and treatments for these disorders.
Recent research has given renewed hope to patients faced with sensory disorders that affect vision and hearing. Learning the genetics behind diseases such as glaucoma and even age-related hearing loss is greatly increasing the ability to develop effective interventions.
Both genes and external stimuli influence how our brains develop. It’s therefore quite difficult to figure out the underlying causes of development disorders. For example, autism incidence is growing at an alarming rate, but much about the disorder remains a mystery.
Cell death is a natural part of aging. But premature brain cell death has devastating consequences. Learning much more about how the cells are normally maintained and what goes wrong in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is the key to finding effective therapies.
Muscles depend on efficient communication to function. Malfunctions in the “communication” pathway via cells known as motor neurons cause debilitating diseases, including muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).