David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Comprehensive Neuroscience Center and vice chair of the UAB Department of Neurology, offers his thoughts on coming breakthroughs in the study of the mind.
“Neuroscience has come a tremendous way in the past 40 years. Almost everything we rely on today didn’t exist in 1969. For example, brain imaging—the ability to look inside the living brain and see what’s going on—has really transformed neurology, and that’s what leads to better treatments and cures.
“As for the future, brain regeneration is going to be a huge area: Once the brain is damaged, can you repair it? It seems like a crazy idea, but the brain develops in the first place, and if we can harness those methods, the information is there. It might involve stem cells; it might involve growth factors; it might involve things we haven’t figured out yet. Forty years is a long time in science.
“As with many things in medicine, some progress is incremental—sometimes, over a period of years, you gradually get better and better. And sometimes, you make a dramatic discovery and cure something. In the next 40 years, we hope to have some of those game-changing shifts and cure some of the diseases that challenge us now. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that we might have a cure for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or ALS in 40 years. It’s possible sooner.”