Monday, August 29, 2016

Seven minutes in stroke - Tim Vanbellingen

Dr. Tim Vanbellingen is a neuroscientist at Head Motor Therapies
Neurology and Neurorehabilitation Center, Luzern in Switzerland and the Postdoc Departments of Neurology and Clinical Research at the
University Hospital, Inselspital Bern

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
Understanding how our brain actually works, and how this is related to different kinds of human behavior is really fascinating to me and inspired me to become a clinical neuroscientist. Still a lot is unknown, many research questions are open. What is also important to me is how to translate the knowledge derived from basic neuroscience into clinical neuroscience.

2. Why stroke?
Stroke affects many people worldwide, leading to strong disability, reduced quality of life (QoL). The last decade some well performed randomized trials have shown positive effects of exercise therapy improving gait, upper limb function, consequently QoL. Already in the very acute stage of a stroke, early mobilization is important and effective for long term functional outcome. Still, the exact dosage of an specific intervention to improve, for example hand function, in a single stroke patient is difficult to determine.
The effects of exercise therapy on structural and functional brain functioning, plasticity, needs to be much better explored in stroke and is very interesting to me.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Not research related:
-       To met my wife back in 2005. Having two kids together ;-))
Research related:
-       To win an important research award in 2014.
-       Obtaining a peer reviewed research grant just recently

4. What have been the lows?
A close rejection of a revised paper in a high ranked journal.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
I try to manage this with a very strict time schedule, to be well organized. I do a lot of conference calls, e-mail checks on the road (in the train) etc… It is also very important to have, at certain time points, a complete, I called it, ‘Offline modus’. No cell-phone, laptop, television ; just family, wife, kids, and the beautiful surroundings of Switzerland, my second home country (besides Belgium off course, as a native Belgian).
I also percieve my ability to engage in research as a ‘privelege’. For example I like to analyse data, or to finalyze a paper, for example in our garden in the evening at sun set. It is a kind of passion, and in fact it is not exhausting to me. I call it a kind of addiction, finishing a nice paper draft, hopefully to get published. And at the end, importantly, to have a certain impact in research community and clinical pratice.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
Prof. Dr. Willy De Weerdt: He was my supervisor for my master thesis and was a great inspiration to me back at that time. ‘The sky is the limit’ he always said to me; he is right !
Prof. Dr. Stephan Bohlhalter: I met him 10 years ago at work and he is my closest collaborator and guided me throughout my PhD. He is great!
Prof. Dr. Thomas Nyffeler: He is my direct chief at work and besides Prof. Bohlhalter my closest collaborator. We share many common interests and has given me new inputs paving my way for the future.
Prof. Dr. Gert Kwakkel and Dr. Erwin van Wegen: I had the opportunity the visit them as a postdoctoral research fellow. They have so much experience, are very well connected. We will continue to work together in the future.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

I closley work together with the NIH, Bethesda (Dr. Mark Hallett), with the University of Vienna (Dr. Thomas Foki), Prof. Dr. Jan Mehrholz (SRH Gera, Kreischa) and the University of Amsterdam (Prof. Dr. Gert Kwakkel and Dr. Erwin van Wegen). All of them I met at international congressess.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seven minutes in stroke - Sara Mazzucco

Dr Sara Mazzucco is a clinical scientist at the Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia
Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Oxford UK.

What inspired you towards neuroscience?

The mystery of the brain! In the late 90s, as a medical student in my pre-clinical years, I was fascinated by how little we knew about how the brain works. There was so much to discover. When I went on to my clinical training and started seeing patients, I was struck by how different, and special, neurological patients were. I had the feeling that some diseases affecting the brain had the power to build a wall of incommunicability and estrangement between the affected patient and the rest of the world. I wanted to understand what that wall was, and I wanted to be able to knock it down.

Why stroke?

I have always been interested in blood circulation, and of course cerebral circulation is even more fascinating as it is different from the rest of the body. The brain is special even in the way it regulates its own perfusion. From a clinical point of view, cerebrovascular diseases are largely preventable and treatable, and I still feel the enthusiasm of being able to make a difference for each individual patient, helping to prevent strokes or offering acute-phase treatments.  

What have been the highs so far?

Finding a non-invasive tool that allows me a glimpse into cerebral haemodynamics, using ultrasound. This tool is called “Neurosonology”. I discovered it in the late 90s and since then I have started from scratch a neurosonology lab first in Italy (in Verona, where I worked for over 10 years) and now in Oxford, UK.

What have been the lows?

When I started my training, I felt very frustrated by the nihilistic attitude of some colleagues towards strokes patients, especially when compared with the enthusiasm for acute coronary reperfusion and endovascular treatments. Nearly twenty years later, we are finally getting there!

How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?

Working hard on both sides, and having great colleagues and a very understanding and helpful family.  

Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?

I am indebted to many generous and clever people, whom I was lucky enough to meet in my professional life.  Among them, the neuroscientist who lead me through the fascination of Neurology was Nicolo’ Rizzuto, head of Neurosciences in Verona University Hospital when I was a medical student and a young doctor, who nurtured and encouraged my interest for stroke and Neurosonology. He also introduced me to Gian Paolo Anzola, who taught me so much, and has always supported me with his advice and practical help.  Peter Rothwell, whom I met during my PhD in Neurosciences when he was just starting the Oxford Vascular study, has always been a guide and reference for me in understanding and treating cerebrovascular diseases. I have moved from Italy to Oxford to be able to work with him, and he is a continuous source of inspiration. And lastly, my father, who is a cardiac surgeon and an academic, to whom I have always turned in my professional life when in doubt, and from whom I suspect I have inherited my interest in haemodynamics.

What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

I have always worked with cardiologists, radiologists and vascular surgeons. More recently, I have developed an interest in paediatric stroke and Sickle Cell Disease, and new collaborations with Paediatric haematologists have started. My research has always been very clinically oriented, and collaborations in research have always grown around clinical questions.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Seven minutes in stroke - Han-Gil Jeong

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
It’s the attraction. When I was preparing to apply to a residency program, I asked myself; “Which organ is most important and interesting in human life?” The answer was easy to find; “Brain.”  

2. Why stroke?
During my rotation in ER, I met a patient with global aphasia with left MCA occlusion. The patient completely recovered after recanalization treatment. My heart pounded with excitement. That moment was I decided to go deep into stroke.

3. What have been the highs so far?
The highs so far was when I finally helped my patient with never-giving-up mind;
A 73-year-old woman presented to our clinic with drowsiness and generalized edema. She had had a left medullary stroke 7 months earlier. She was diagnosed with decompensated right heart failure but the cause was unknown even with a cardiology consultation. I had cared her day and night (even not going home!), and finally noticed that she was hypopneic/apneic when asleep. Yes, it was central hypoventilation syndrome after medullary stroke. She started nocturnal biPAP and fully recovered. After 3 months, the heart suffering at night was also normalized. I felt really great about successfully having treated the patient. The details are here! (

4. What have been the lows?
I think I’m still too young to talk about the lows of my career as a doctor or a researcher. :) 

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
I always tried to finish my work in time and according to priorities, although sometimes failed. But I can survive with a beautiful and fully supportive wife at home.
6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
I have been lucky to be mentored by many people. Dr. Kiwon Lee, who is always passionate and full of energy, have taught me how to be confident and successful in life. Dr. Beom Joon Kim, who inspired my interest in clinical research and have taught me how to conduct a reproducible and meaningful clinical research; Dr. Seung-Hoon Lee, who has the great pioneer spirit and has led me to the field of nanomedicine and stroke; Dr. Sang-Bae Ko, who was a model of clinical excellence and great teaching during my training; Dr. Byung-Woo Yoon, who was a model of patient rapport and generosity in a clinic.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

Currently, I have had the chance of collaborating with great researchers in the field of nanomedicine to develop nanotherapeutics for stroke (Dr. Seung-Hoon Lee & Dr. Jaeyun Kim). And I also collaborate with Dr. Beom Joon Kim focusing on post-recanalization treatment strategies for acute ischemic stroke. I’m always open to new opportunity and diligent in doing my research, which helps me to build healthy collaborations with other researchers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Seven minutes in stroke - Marie Luby

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?

My first position as a biomedical engineer at Yale is what inspired me towards neuroscience. I assisted in the image acquisition and planning for image-guided stereotactic neurosurgery. It was a tremendous learning experience. I also performed hippocampal volumetric measurements in epileptic patients. My love for quantitative and functional MRI began at that time. The ability to measure pathology and disease progression using imaging fascinated me.

2. Why stroke?

My next significant position was as the director of Central Nervous System at an imaging CRO, focusing on clinical trials. We were responsible for the image processing and analyses for the majority of neuroprotective agents in ischemic stroke studies. During that time I traveled to hospitals around the world and learned a great deal from both an imaging and clinical perspective. My interest in being an imaging scientist formed during this experience.  As a result I finished my doctorate in biomedical engineering with my dissertation focusing on quantitative MRI in stroke.

3. What have been the highs so far?

The highs are finishing research studies, getting papers published and presenting at international meetings. However, the biggest high by far is teaching engineering and medical students and having a positive impact on their careers.

4. What have been the lows?

The lows are getting papers rejected, especially after putting in an enormous amount of time and effort.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?

I think I have dedicated, albeit by sheer luck, each decade to one life goal. First was an emphasis on travel and gaining work experience, next was finishing my academic goals and establishing myself as an imaging scientist, which coincided with becoming a mother. Over the last several years my drive has helped me to focus on two goals, raising my daughter and advancing the science in stroke imaging.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?

My most important mentors are: Dr. Greg McCarthy, neuropsychologist at Yale who taught me a tremendous amount; Dr. John Enderle, my advisor from my doctoral studies at UCONN, who encouraged me throughout my academic career and hired me as an adjunct professor for the BME department; and Dr. Steven Warach, my life long mentor and friend, who I met during my time at the imaging CRO. I have been fortunate enough to continue to work with Dr. Warach for almost two decades.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

My most important collaborations have been through my current position at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke\National Institutes of Health and becoming involved in STIR and VISTA Imaging, two worldwide collaborative groups focused on the advancement of stroke research. I have built these collaborations by helping others in their research, being meticulous in my own research, being dedicated with my feedback to others, and being open to all ideas and approaches that my colleagues put forth.

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