Brain | St. Louis Public Radio


Philip Bayly, a mechanical engineer at Washington University, holds a model of a human brain on January 1, 2020. Bayly is part of a team of engineers and doctors working to better understand brain injuries.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Philip Bayly has spent years trying to figure out the best way to jiggle a brain. 

The mechanical engineer is part of a team of researchers at Washington University studying how a jolt to the head can shake the brain — the kind of injury a football player suffers when crashing into an opponent. Using a specially designed device that vibrates volunteers’ heads, they hope to better understand the effects of repeated brain injuries.

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood is tested for TBI using the experimental Brain Scope, part of research going on at the base and Phelps Health in Rolla. 12/5/19
Matthew Doellman | Phelps Health

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

Drs. Eric Leuthardt (at left) and Albert Kim discussed how they take information about the brain and present it in a live-theater production format on Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

When Washington University neurosurgeons Albert Kim and Eric Leuthardt aren’t teaching, researching or performing surgery, they often think of creative ways to get information about the brain and its complexities to the masses, such as co-hosting their “Brain Coffee” podcast.

Another one of their endeavors is putting together a live theater experience showcasing the wonders of the brain. “BrainWorks” dramatizes real-life neurological cases to help explain the science behind brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, brain tumors and strokes. 

The production is a collaboration between the Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Nine Network of Public Media. This year’s performances will be July 19, 20 and 21 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on Webster University’s campus. 

Donato Maffin | U.S. Marine Corps

Children with concussions should be able to continue exercising and using electronics, according to new treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For years, doctors have recommended children who suffered a concussion stay in a dark room with few distractions with the belief it would speed up healing. The new guidance encourages pediatricians to recommend that children engage in moderate exercise and electronics use.

A Washington University researcher holds a piece of paper coated with tiny gold particles that can be used to test blood for Zika virus.
Provided | Washington University School of Medicine

St. Louis researchers have used a strain of the Zika virus to shrink highly lethal brain tumors in mice. 

The study, run by Washington University and the University of California San Diego, used 33 lab mice with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Mice injected with a strain of the Zika virus lived longer and were measured to have smaller tumors than the control group, which was injected with saltwater.

A mouse runs on a "rotarod" wearing the implantable device. The experiment is designed to test the mouse's motor skills.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

A federal initiative to find cures for brain disorders is granting $3.8 million to Washington University researchers and their collaborators.

The group is studying how neurons respond to light by implanting fiber-optic threads the width of a human hair into the brains of lab mice.

“We’re able to get animals to do particular behaviors while this light is dialing up or dialing down particular activities,” said Dr. Michael Bruchas, a Washington University neuroscientist. “We can actually affect how they approach one another, how they interact.”

Randy Miller, right, participates in a group therapy session at Fontbonne University's Aphasia Boot Camp.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

74-year-old John Rush is trying to find the word for a type of fruit pictured on a card in front of him. He can’t see it, but other participants in this group therapy session are giving him hints: they’re small, round, you can put them in pies…

It’s on the tip of his tongue.

“Gosh, I have some at home,” he laughs, to a roomful of encouraging smiles.

This Is Your Brain...At The Movies

Oct 28, 2014
Oxford University Press

Movies can sometimes feel very real, bringing up emotions and even physical reactions as we watch them.

Washington University cognitive neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks studies how the brain processes visual imagery, including what we see on film.

According to Zacks, movies hijack the parts of our brains that trigger our emotional responses and overstimulate them.

First Results From Brain Mapping Project Ready For Download

Mar 5, 2013
D. Barch, M. Harms, G. Burgess for the WU-Minn HCP consortium.

An international brain mapping project led by Washington University has released its first set of results.

The Human Connectome Project is a five-year effort to study brain circuits and how the wiring of the brain relates to human behavior.

Project researchers are working to obtain high-resolution brain scans of 1,200 healthy adults, along with information about their cognitive abilities, personalities, and other characteristics.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 20, 2012 - Following some late night editing about a month ago, Nine Network producer Ruth Ezell left the station at 4 a.m. to prepare for what would be one of the most important mornings in her life. She wanted to get the editing done, even if it took half the night, because she’d be away from the office until the start of the year, recuperating from surgery.

If it hasn't happened to you, count yourself as lucky. For many people, eating ice cream or drinking an icy drink too fast can produce a really painful headache. It usually hits in the front of the brain, behind the forehead.

The technical name for this phenomenon is cold-stimulus headache, but people also refer to it as "ice cream headache" or "brain freeze."

The good news is that brain freeze is easy to prevent — just eat more slowly. The other bit of good news is these headaches don't last very long — a minute at the outside.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 10, 2012 - Examining the brain of an NFL player who died at a relatively young age, a doctor found large deposits of “tau proteins.” In layman’s terms, these  are the equivalent of sludge in the engine of thought. They are believed to be caused by trauma.

Junior Seau was an All-Pro linebacker in the National Football League. He played most of his career in San Diego, where he became something of a cultural icon by being as likable off the field as he was dangerous upon it.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 20, 2012 - The first Bill Donius I knew was one that flickered on the television screen all across the region. You may recall having seen him: he played himself in commercials for Pulaski Bank, his family’s business, and the role he played, and his day job as well, was chairman and CEO of the bank. In both roles he exuded self-confidence, approachability and friendliness. He brought new customers to the bank through the successful ad campaign and was effective in bringing innovative ideas to the operation of the bank as well.

Brain differences found in infants who develop autism

Feb 17, 2012
(Photo: Jason Wolff/UNC)

New research shows that differences in the brain development of autistic children are already visible in infants as young as 6 months old.

Researchers at four study sites nationwide used a type of MRI scan to look at brain development in the younger siblings of autistic children, who are known to be at higher risk for autism themselves.

Ninety-two children were scanned at 6, 12, and 24 months of age, while the children were sleeping.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 25, 2011 - Dr. Jerry Jaboin, a Washington University researcher and clinical physician, said he became a scientist because "it's fun, it's discovery." What he's trying to discover is deadly serious: better treatments for brain tumors.

At age 37, Jaboin calls himself a "junior scientist." He has just begun his scientific career in earnest and he's looking to make his mark. He doesn't know exactly where that will be, but he says he's sure it's going to have something to do with eradicating brain tumors.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 5, 2011 - Washington University's David van Essen is working on a $30-million project that he says is essentially a matter of "the human brain trying to understand the human brain." And thanks to cutting-edge technology, the brains at nine institutions nationwide are making substantial progress.

Van Essen is the lead investigator for the Human Connectome project that is aimed at creating a wiring diagram for the brain in the next five years. The hope is that the research could someday lead to therapies for neurological and psychological disorders.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 5, 2011 - The $30 million Human Connectome project, a consortium of nine institutions, is aimed at creating a wiring diagram for the brain in the next five years. The hope is that the research could someday lead to therapies for neurological and psychological disorders. And thanks to cutting-edge technology, the brains at nine institutions nationwide are making substantial progress.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis area medical professionals are throwing their support behind a bill making its way through the Missouri legislature. The bill would help protect high school athletes from concussions.

Among other measures, the High School Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act would require student athletes to be cleared by a doctor before returning to play or practice.

McCaskill panel opens inquiry into brain-injury policy

Jan 11, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 21, 2011 - WASHINGTON - Probing the Pentagon's rationale in refusing to cover certain treatments for traumatic brain injuries, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has opened a subcommittee investigation into contracts related to that policy.

In a letter sent this week to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the senator -- who chairs the Contracting Oversight subcommittee -- demanded that the Pentagon provide the panel with contracts, reports and reviews that may have influenced its TRICARE health-care program for service members not to cover a treatment called "cognitive rehabilitation therapy."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 17, 2008 - Pat Millstone of University City has followed reports of Sen. Ted Kennedy's brain tumor and surgery with more than passing interest.

If anyone can relate to what Kennedy and his family is going through, it's Millstone.

Her husband, Jim Millstone, a former senior assistant managing editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, died of a brain tumor in 1992. In the two years following surgery to remove the tumor, Pat Millstone watched her husband deteriorate in mind, body and spirit.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 12, 2008 - Suzy Esstman's initial encounter with her brain tumor disease was less swift and dramatic than Sen. Kennedy's. In the summer and fall of 2003, she began to forget words.

Suzy's friends initially wrote it off to stress. After all, she and her husband, Don, of Chesterfield, were caught up in planning their son Andrew's bar mitzvah. And all the while Suzy was keeping up her dizzying volunteer schedule serving on projects, events and steering committees.