We've asked our supporters over the last couple months to submit their burning questions about neurology, neurological disorders and conditions and neurological research, so we could go on the hunt for the answers. Our in-house Research Manager, Dr Sarah Schonberger, and Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Neil Anderson have submitted their answers to this month's questions.
If you have a question you'd like to submit or have any further questions about the answer provided below, please contact us through email at firstname.lastname@example.org and submit your question or comment.
Question 1 - Tinnitus
Our first question comes from a supporter about Tinnitus.
I have suffered from Tinnnitus for many years. Over 12 years ago I was involved in a 6-month study at Auckland University. They gave me hearing aids with a soothing sound built into them. Unfortunately that didn't make any difference to my Tinnitus. Do you do any research into this disability?
Answer: Dr Sarah Schonberger
In the last decade the Foundation has funded nearly half a million towards tinnitus research. The most recent project grant of $197,910 was awarded to Associate Professor Yiwen Zheng, investigating the use of deep brain stimulation for the treatment of tinnitus. In our Summer edition of Headlines we profiled Associate Professor Yiwen Zheng, who is part of group at the University of Otago researching treatments for Tinnitus.
Question 2 - Motor Neuron Disease (MND)
Our second question comes from a supporter wanting to know more about Motor Neuron Disease.
Hi, I'd like to know what is being done to look at causes of motor neuron disease and are there any cures/treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease?
Answer: Dr Neil Anderson and Dr Sarah Schonberger
There is a large amount of research being done looking into the cause of MND. Some of this research is being done in New Zealand. Dr Emma Scotter immediately springs to mind.
Unfortunately there is no cure for MND and there is nothing that slows the progression of MND. There is a drug called riluzole that is available in New Zealand that prolongs survival by a few weeks, but it does not make any improvement to the symptoms during those weeks. There has been a large investment in trying to find effective treatments. So far these trials have not been successful, but several other forms of treatment are being tested in trials overseas.
The University of Edinburgh and the Euan MacDonald Centre have started the MND-SMART clinical trials program that will allow hundreds of people across the UK to take part in tests of potential treatments for MND. MND NZ is developing a registry in NZ to enable New Zealanders to participate in MND research.
We have recently funded new projects on MND. Neurological Foundation First Fellow, Dr Molly Swanson, will begin a project this year looking at how immune cells in the brain contribute to the development of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the most common form of MND. Two Neurological Foundation Wrightson Fellows will begin their projects next year. Dr Angus Lindsay, at Deakin University in Australia, will be looking at Tetrahydrobiopterin supplementation as a therapeutic approach to treat MND. Dr Siobhan Kirk, at the University of Queensland, will be investigating causes of cell death in MND.
Question 3: Mental Health & Schizophrenia
The third question is about mental health, specifically schizophrenia.
My burning question (as per your Autumn newsletter) is: Is schizophrenia listed as a neurological condition? If so, could this reasonably be expected to worsen as a sufferer grows older, as most neurological conditions do?
Answer: Dr Neil Anderson
Schizophrenia is not listed or regarded as a neurological condition. Having said that, however, some neurological conditions can present with symptoms that are very similar to schizophrenia. In addition, brain imaging studies have shown subtle abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia. In other words, schizophrenia and neurology may be more closely linked than previously believed. At present, however, patients with schizophrenia are managed best by psychiatrists. Neurologists do not have the expertise to manage patients with schizophrenia.
Unfortunately we were unable to get an answer to the second part of this question but will do our best to find one in the future.