"The Visionary Ball raises critical funds and awareness in support of our patients who face the most complex neurological disorders of this era. Millions of Americans battle disorders of the brain and spine each year, and these disorders have become the #1 cause of disability and loss of life in the nation. There is an urgent and increasing need to develop cutting-edge neurosurgical excellence that will benefit families throughout Los Angeles and people around the world who will be healed by treatments developed at UCLA.
The road to curing brain cancer, reversing strokes, repairing traumatic injuries, and re-engineering the central nervous system presents a formidable challenge. Yet, as the only medical professionals with direct access to the brain and spinal cord, neurosurgeons are uniquely qualified to blaze the trail - and none more so than here at UCLA.
The philanthropic partners who sustain our journey with visionary moral and financial support accelerate our impact exponentially. On behalf of our patients at UCLA and beyond, I extend our sincere gratitude to our supporters who allow us to heal humankind, one patient at a time."
—Linda M. Liau, MD, PhD, MBA
Professor and Chair
Department of Neurosurgery
On behalf of the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery, we would like to say thank you to our donors of the Visionary Ball who made these seed grants possible this year and for helping us to continue our mission of translating science and technology into medicine at the bedside to improve and save the lives of our patients and their families at UCLA. With your support, we will continue to pioneer and transmit the advancements in neurosurgical care that make medical miracles happen daily in our community and around the world.
Restoring Spinal Cord Function by Modulating Spinal Cord Circuitry
Assistant Professor Daniel C. Lu, M.D., Ph.D.
This has been an exciting year for us in the field of spinal cord injury as we have discovered that we can restore function in patients who are quadriplegic. At UCLA, we have started human clinical trials with a local Santa Monica high school football player tragically injured on the field. It was believed before now that the spinal cord could not function without intact input from the brain. But, quiescent connections remain after spinal cord injury and through investigatory drugs, epidural stimulation, and novel rehabilitation, these connections can be accessed to produce meaningful functional gains.
Regaining Motor Function after Severe Spinal Cord Injury with Spinal Cord Epidural Stimulation
Professor V. Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D.
This year, a 25-year-old man paralyzed for five years by a spinal cord injury, can now stand for 30 consecutive minutes and take assisted steps with the help of surgically implanted electrodes in his lower back to stimulate the spinal cord. This electrical stimulation in combination with motor function training is boosting the neurons in the spinal cord so that he regains voluntary control of movement in both legs after about six months post surgery. This recovery is possible because the spinal cord neurons are smart and know how to control the legs even without any commands from the brain. These observations recently reported in Lancet open the question of just how many paralyzed patients may be able to recover significant levels of function with this treatment strategy. In parallel, we are performing lab experiments, which have demonstrated strong synergistic effects of pharmacological neuromodulation combined with epidural stimulation and training. Our present research efforts are focused on further improving our ability to recover greater levels of motor and autonomic function in other neuromotor pathologies using similar intervention strategies.
The Effect of Watching a 3D Movie on the Brain
Assistant Professor Nader Pouratian, M.D., Ph.D.
As experts in the field of brain science and brain mapping, we developed a study to provide evidence that watching a 3D movie can actually change how the brain functions for a short period of time. Our 3D study entailed having subjects perform a mental rotation task before and after watching both a 2D and a 3D movie, all the while monitoring their brain activity in a functional MRI scanner. The mental rotation task involves having each subject look at two objects on the screen, rotate them in their head (hence, mental rotation), and then tell us if the two objects are the same or different. Our early conclusions show that the brain not only responds differently to 2D and 3D movies, but that brain activity significantly changes in a unique pattern specifically after watching a 3D movie, demonstrating that 3D movies actually affects how our brain processes visual-spatial information and tasks. These results have important implications for the future of restorative neurosurgery for which we are increasingly exploring ways to modulate brain activity to improve patients' quality of life.
Single Neuron Studies of Declarative Memory in Humans
Professor Itzhak Fried, M.D.
The Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory is studying the function of brain cells in various forms of cognition, including visual perception and memory, auditory function, navigation, and motor function. Our team discovered for the first time recorded individual brain cells in the act of summoning a spontaneous memory, revealing not only where a remembered experience is registered but also, in part, how the brain is able to recreate it. A surgical opportunity for this research is used to directly record individual brain cells as they fire, using depth electrode probes that are implanted in deep areas of the brain in epilepsy patients who are being evaluated for the location of their seizures, so that they can have surgery to cure their epilepsy. Our UCLA depth electrode team celebrates more than 400 patients who have undergone depth electrode implantation in an endeavor to cure epilepsy over the past 36 years.
UCLA Meningioma Research Laboratory Optimizing Neurosurgical Outcomes
Assistant Professor Isaac Yang, M.D.
Our research in the Meningioma Research Laboratory is focused on optimizing prognosis, neurosurgical outcomes and characterizing optimal adjuvant treatment for an individualized therapeutic strategy for patients with brain tumors. More specifically, we are focused on meningiomas that are the second most common primary brain tumor. While most meningiomas are benign, there remains a subset of these tumors that are aggressive, recurrent or refractory to treatment. These higher grade and recurrent meningiomas are expected to have an antigen on the surface of the cell, which gives off intruder signals to the immune system, and appear different than the benign tumor cell. We are using a stain to identify these intruder cells that translates to a more precise prognosis to reach an optimal treatment for brain tumors. We are also applying this staining identification strategy to other forms of brain tumors.
UCLA Neurosurgery Clinical Quality Program
Assistant Clinical Professor Nasim Afsar-manesh, M.D.
We have implemented the UCLA Neurosurgery Clinical Quality Program as a comprehensive plan to achieve four key goals: to improve our care, enhance patient safety, increase efficiency and reduce costs for our patients. This year, we have developed an educational video for patients to improve safety and a better understanding of the inner workings of our hospital. This leads to improved communication between our staff and patients while translating to better care and patient satisfaction. We've reduced hospital and medication risks. By working together as a team to evaluate overall performance, we have created more efficient systems in our daily operations therefore eliminating unnecessary use of resources, and as bi-product reducing our costs. We've developed new green initiatives through our collaboration with Campus Sustainability and Medical Center Recycling Programs. Ultimately this means continuing to rank in the top five hospitals in the country voted by US News and World Report for the last 10 years while ensuring world-class care for our patients.
Perfecting Neurosurgical Care in Our Community
Division of Neurosurgery, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
The Division of Neurosurgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center has just installed the Stealth Station S7 Surgical Navigation System, one of the most advanced neuro-navigational systems to date in the operating theater. Harbor-UCLA in Torrance is one of Los Angeles County's busiest Level-1 trauma centers. Our team supports the county hospital in neurosurgical emergencies, neurotrauma, brain and spinal injuries, tumors both benign and malignant, as well as degenerative and complex spine conditions. Despite the challenges, we can continue our mission of exceptional care with this neuro-navigational system. The StealthStation S7 Surgical Navigation System enables our team to calculate and perform the surgical resection of most benign and malignant brain tumors with remarkable accuracy and precision. The results are better surgical outcomes and improved patient recovery outcomes, as well as more efficient use of our resources. On behalf of our team as well as our hundreds of patients here at Harbor-UCLA, our thanks go to all our generous donors of the Visionary Ball who help us make the impossible, possible.