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Leading Women Scientists Honored at Prestigious Parkinsonís Event

The Parkinsonís Disease Foundation (PDF), a leading national presence in the field of Parkinson's disease research, education and public advocacy, will honor four women scientists tomorrow, Tuesday, at its annual gala at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.

This is believed to be the first time that leading women scientists in a particular area of neurologic disease have been recognized as a group.

The contributions to Parkinsonís science of these four outstanding women Ė Ann Martin Graybiel, Ph.D., of M.I.T.; Karen S. Marder, M.D., M.P.H., of the Columbia University Medical Center; Caroline M. Tanner, M.D., Ph.D., of the Parkinsonís Institute; and Anne B. Young, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital Ė will be recognized at Bal du Printemps, PDFís elegant celebration of philanthropy and science to raise funds for and awareness of Parkinson's disease. All proceeds will be used to support PDF research programs.

Each scientistís main area of contribution is summarized below:

Ann Martin Graybiel, Ph.D. Dr. Graybiel, Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Investigator, McGovern Institute of Brain Research, along with her group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has helped scientists to understand the functions of the striatum (a part of the basal ganglia known to be involved in the dysfunction that results in Parkinson's disease). Their work has identified the subgroups of brain cells that degenerate in Parkinson's disease (PD), as well as identifying many of the brain pathways in the basal ganglia that malfunction.

Dr. Graybiel and her colleagues have made landmark contributions to understanding how the activity of the forebrain is controlled during motor activity, procedural learning and cognition. This work is crucial for research on neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders -- including Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome -- in which motor and cognitive behavior is dysregulated. As an outcome of their findings, Dr. Graybiel and her colleagues have gone on to study neuroplasticity (neuronal re-wiring) in the striatum. The current work of Dr. Graybiel and her group addresses the issues of how we can make and break habits, and how consciously guided behaviors can become automated. The lack of control of such automated behaviors is a central problem in basal ganglia disorders such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome.

Karen S. Marder, M.D., M.PH. Dr. Marder, Sally Kerlin Professor of Neurology (in Sergievsky Center, Taub Institute and Psychiatry); Division Chief, Department of Neurology, Division of Aging and Dementia, is a leading researcher in the field of neurodegenerative disease. Her Parkinsonís-specific research includes an NIH-funded study on genetic epidemiology, a Udall Center project on gender and ethnic differences and research on the risk factors for dementia in PD. In addition Dr. Marder is conducting research in Alzheimer's disease and HIV-related dementia. She is also the director of the Huntington's Disease Center at the New York State Psychiatric Institute that was designated a Huntington's Disease Society of America Center of Excellence in 1999.

Caroline M. Tanner, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Tanner is the director of clinical research at the Parkinsonís Institute of California. Upon arrival from Chicagoís Rush-Presbyterian-St. Lukeís Medical Center, she organized a federally-funded study of World War II veteran twins, trying to identify environmental and genetic factors that may play roles in the development of Parkinsonís disease and other movement disorders. Her work has included epidemiological investigations into the causes of PD, atypical parkinsonism, essential tremor, motor neuron disease, dystonia and Tourette syndrome, including investigations in the NAS/NRC Veterans Twins Registry, in the Agricultural Health Study, in an ethnically diverse Northern California population and in China. She is also involved in numerous clinical trials.

Anne B. Young, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Young, a Julianne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, the Chief of Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Scientific Director of the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, is a researcher and clinician who has concentrated her work on neurotransmitter systems in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that is implicated in Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Her current research includes exploring cellular and systems mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases. She has long been a leader in worldwide efforts to understand the genetic and specific neurotransmitter influences on degeneration of the nervous system. Dr. Young founded the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease in 2001 to translate laboratory discoveries into treatment.

The Parkinsonís Disease Foundation was formed in 1957 to sponsor research directed to finding the cause and cure of Parkinsonís disease. Its founder was William Black, who also founded the coffee company Chock Full oí Nuts, and whose widow, Page Morton Black, continues to lead PDF today. PDFís programs include: advancing Parkinson's science through research awards and training fellowships, providing information and education to the Parkinsonís community through materials and conferences and engaging in advocacy work.

Source: PDF Contact: Lucy Sargent, Director of Communications, lsargent@pdf.org.

Source Date: May 18 2004