Monthly Archives: October 2012

The people behind DIAN

This month we have sent out an appeal letter in which Chontell Johnson tells her story. Chontell’s mother had the genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease and Chontell made the decision to have predictive testing some years ago. She found out that she carries the form of the gene responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease in her family. Other family members have developed symptoms between the mid-30s and the mid-50s, so this was a blow, to say the least. However, Chontell has set an example to us all in grasping the future with both hands and making every day count. She is a participant in the DIAN study (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network) and her ever-cheerful involvement provides a great motivation to us all to get on with our research, which we hope will include trials of preventive drugs beginning next year. Read more

Australia-China scientific exchange

We are all aware of China’s surging economic growth but it may be surprising to some that China has also had a 64-fold increase in peer-reviewed scientific papers since 1981. Assuming China’s research presence continues along the same trajectory, it will become the largest producer of scientific knowledge by 2013 (in 2004-2008 China produced 10% of the world’s published scientific articles placing it in second place after the United States). Furthermore in its draft budget, China announced that it would put aside US$5.14 billion for basic research in 2012 – a 26% increase compared to the year before. Read more

‘A grown up is a child with layers on’

Evolution is the gradual development of something into a more complex or better form. I witness this everyday as a paediatric neurologist: A newborn is vulnerable and fully dependent on its parents and during childhood movements become smooth and an infant learns to stand, walk and then run. Compared to development in other species, human children take a long time to grow up. Read more

The brain’s own cannabis: the endocannabinoid system

Did you know that the brain contains its own set of chemicals that act like chemicals found in cannabis? You may have heard of endorphins (not to be confused with the Australian electronic musician), opiate-like chemicals made by our bodies that help us control pain and feel good after exercise. Well, the body also makes its own cannabis-like chemicals, called endocannabinoids, that help us with everyday functions such as memory and appetite. Read more

Why have Australians given billions to establish private foundations?

Since 2001, the Australian government has enabled donors to create a simple form of private foundation now called the Private Ancillary Fund (previously, a private prescribed fund). These funds are “ancillary” because they exist only to support charities like NeuRA. Put simply, they are family-style trusts. They only distribute their income to deductible gift recipient charities, and they must distribute a minimum amount every year (usually, at least 5% of the value of the fund). The people who donate the funds receive a tax deduction, but can never withdraw the funds or direct them to their own or private use. Read more