The year in neurology

Written by Alice Weatherston

Since Neurology Central launched in July 2015 we’ve seen a wealth of exciting developments across the field. From neurodegenerative diseases to brain injuries and mental health, our rapid increase in understanding in a range of fields and key diseases of the brain is creating a burgeoning pot of information for researchers and clinicians worldwide.
So what were some of the biggest developments and most talked about topics of 2015?
Breaking through the blood-brain barrier
Arguably one of the most significant breakthroughs (in every sense of the word!) of 2015 was in the successful breach of the blood-brain barrier for the first time, an advancement that could have huge implications for the development of effective therapies for many neurological conditions.

Researchers from Sunnybrook Health Center (ON, Canada) successfully delivered chemotherapy drugs to a brain tumor patient utilizing focused ultrasound. The team inserted microscopic bubbles into the circulation system along with the chemotherapy which, when hit by the ultrasound waves, compressed and expanded. These repeated changes to the microscopic bubbles resulted in the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier cells opening up and the chemotherapy being delivered effectively to the brain.
Progression in Alzheimer’s therapies
Results of Eli Lilly’s Phase III trial of solanezumab were strongly anticipated in July and showed significant hope for the efficacy of the drug for slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Results of the next stage of trials, due to be released within 2–3 years, will no doubt have a significant impact on the state of drug development for Alzheimer’s and will be key to evaluating how close to effective treatments for the disease we currently are.

Progression in the development of another antibody treatment, aducanumab was also positive, indicating significant reductions in cortical amyloid levels in Alzheimer’s patients receiving the treatment. In addition, the development of BACE1 inhibitors capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier has lead to increased optimism around the use of BACE1 as a drug target for Alzheimer’s disease.

We discussed these results and what else to expect in Alzheimer’s research in 2016 with world Alzheimer’s expert John Hardy (University College London, UK) following his receipt of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in November – watch it here.

Finally, across the internet research from the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) made headlines, indicating that scanning ultrasound treatments could be used to remove Aβ in the absence of any other therapeutics in the brains of mice. This helped the research to make Altmetrics top 50 articles of 2015.
Throughout this year the momentum behind the field of concussion has been growing exponentially. With both increases in research funding and heightened public awareness (including a blockbuster Hollywood film) of the importance of studying the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), huge steps have been made in beginning to understand the pathology of the condition, as well as how it can be effectively diagnosed, managed and prevented.

Here are just some of the key headlines that we featured over the past 6 months – this will no doubt be a continuing theme throughout 2016 as we move toward the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport later this year:

Potential marker of non-reversible brain damage following concussion identified

Concussion research at the National Institutes of Health: an update from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Latest research into the effects of traumatic brain injury

Diagnosing concussion with soundwave technology

Biomarkers of concussion explored in new study

Early exposure to repetitive head impacts in tackle football linked to altered brain development

Developing a molecular taxonomy for traumatic brain injury: a perspective to enable the development of diagnostics and therapeutics

Player–player contact, not heading, is the leading cause of concussion in high school soccer

If you want find out more about current research in the area don’t forget to take a look at Future Medicine’s recently launched dedicated open access journal Concussion, as well as Neurology Central’s focus on traumatic brain injury (including concussion) in February this year.
Mental health
The field of mental health received attention in 2015 primarily in the clinical setting. Many healthcare systems were calling for increased funding and improved care for individuals suffering from psychological disorders. There were also however some interesting developments in diagnosis and treatment of some key disorders:

Biomarkers of psychosis identified in new study

High-inflammation depression linked to reduced functional connectivity

Disturbances in protein regulation offer new possibilities for schizophrenia treatment

Knowns and unknowns of identifications management of depressed brain tumor patient

New proposals for gun control in the USA have also recently touched on improvements in the management of mental health patients, highlighting the continued wide-reaching relevance of this subject both clinically and in the research environment moving into 2016.

Research highlights did of course include huge advances in many other areas of neurological research, for example we saw the first case of restored walking capability in a paraplegic and the creation of a robotic hand with near-natural sense of touch, new therapies emerged across a variety of fields and the evolution of new technologies for both research and digital health exploded.

To round off, here are the top three news stories, exclusives and journal articles from Neurology Central in 2015.


New drug candidates could aid treatment of Rett syndrome

Antimalarial drugs could provide hope for Parkinson’s treatment

Is rapid treatment of depression on the horizon with GABA-NAMs?


Treating neurodegenerative disease with tyrosine kinase inhibitors

What is the future for antipsychotic drugs in dementia treatment?

Celebrating successes and looking forward in Alzheimer’s disease research: Interview with John Hardy

Journal articles:

Mild cognitive impairment: an update in Parkinson’s disease and lessons learned from Alzheimer’s disease

Neurological disorders, depression and inflammation: is there a common link?

Does the gut drive amyotrophic lateral sclerosis progress?
What do you think will be the big topics and questions answered in 2016?