Our daughter, Catie Lake, was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia 17 (SCA-17). Stricken with the crippling effects of this cerebellar-based progressive disease at age 20, losing the ability to speak and rapidly degenerating from physical normality to a wheel chair by the age of 24, Catie’s experience inspired us to establish the MINDlink Foundation as a means of generating support for the Laboratory. Tragically, Catie passed away September 30th, 2011 from complications of her disease. MindLink is Catie’s legacy. Through it, her life has taken on greater meaning as a vehicle to facilitate medical research that will help others. We seek your help in supporting research that will aid millions of others with neurological disorders with a cerebellar component. By donating to Dr. Schmahmann’s Laboratory for Neuroanatomy and Cerebellar Neurobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital through MINDlink, you can help him unlock the enormous promise and potential of the cerebellum and connect it to cures. On behalf of Catie and the many like her, thank you very much for your support.
– Monte and Susan Lake
Our Mission – Connecting the Cerebellum to Cures
An Urgent Need
For more than six million Americans and their families who are affected by neurodegenerative diseases, the emotional, social and financial impact is overwhelming. The cost to society is measured in billions of dollars. This toll will increase exponentially as the incidence of neurodegenerative disorder grows with the aging baby boomer generation. Novel treatments and cures must be discovered before these diseases overwhelm our health care system. A critical and groundbreaking component of potential cures for interrelated diseases involves cerebellum research.
A Breakthrough Discovery
Dr. Jeremy Schmahmann, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, is an award-winning leader on the cerebellum. In the past the cerebellum was only thought to influence movement disorders such as ataxia, producing uncoordinated limb movements and slurred speech. Together with colleagues he made the groundbreaking discovery that the cerebellum (the little brain), once thought only to coordinate movement, is essential also for modulating intellect and emotion – with implications for disabling conditions, including schizophrenia and autism. Working with colleagues at Harvard and in the MGH Ataxia Unit, the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the Whitehead Institute, and the Broad Institute, Dr. Schmahmann’s studies have potential to solve intractable problems of the biology of the neurodegenerative ataxias and related disorders.
A Basis for Hope; A Connection to Cures
Dr. Schmahmann’s laboratory is on the cutting edge of a new field of study called “Connectivity.” His research for the first time has identified the five cables that connect one part of the brain to another and analyzes the changes in these cables and the problems that result from such changes. What are the causes in the breakdowns in these brain connectors, and how does one intervene before the problem progresses into a serious disorder? This research is showing strong ties between the cerebellum and cognitive and emotional disorders, providing a basis for hope that breakthroughs can be made in curing the community of neurodegenerative disorders.
A Community to Benefit
Dr. Schmahmann’s ground-breaking research holds the potential to help better understand, diagnose and treat neurodegenerative diseases that now appear to have a cerebellar link: Spinocerebellar ataxia. Multiple systems atrophy. Ataxic cerebral palsy. Neuropsychiatric illnesses. Autism spectrum disorders. Schizophrenia. Importantly, new genetic analyses also reveal that the spinocerebellar ataxias may provide clues to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington’s diseases as they all have clinical and genetic similarities to certain ataxias.
A Collaboration to Support
The necessary financial investment will enable Dr. Schmahmann’s Laboratory for Neuroanatomy and Cerebellar Neurobiology to work with the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) and other major research institutions in the Boston area including the Whitehead Institute. There, teams of world-renowned experts work collaboratively with highly creative young investigators to develop new strategies for treatment of a broad range of diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Even though clinical similarities have been found between ataxias and these more well-known diseases, the spinocerebellar and neurodegenerative ataxias are not a focus of these institutes. With your support, we hope to change this and accelerate the ability to connect the cerebellum to cures.