The human brain has produced truly remarkable advances in medical science, creating new medical devices, pharmaceutical products, and diagnostic and surgical procedures that enable us to enjoy longer, healthier lives. Consider, just as examples, the Salk vaccine, which has virtually eliminated polio; and the MRI, which makes it possible to do internal examinations noninvasively.
But this very success—living longer—demands that we urgently address diseases of the brain that often accompany aging. Three out of five Americans will suffer from a nervous-system disease at some time in their lives. These illnesses are often chronic and debilitating. The list of these ailments is long—Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease being among the most widely known—and there are no cures for many of them. For Alzheimer's and Parkinson's there are medicines that diminish the symptoms, but these drugs do not halt or even slow the underlying degenerative processes.
Clearly, greater investment in researching diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is needed. With healthy brains, Americans will do more than just live longer, they will remain productive longer and contribute to the well-being of our nation instead of adding substantially to the costs and other burdens of health care.
(photo credit: Parthiv Haldipur)