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Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, MSci, PhD, was awarded the Harold Wolff-John Graham Award for Headache/Facial Pain Research at the AAN Annual Meeting in Miami in April. He was recognized for his contributions to migraine research.

Dr. Bigal is Assistant Professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. He has studied the process that transforms migraine from an episodic problem to a chronic disorder – specifically honing in on the pharmacological properties of GluR5 receptor antagonists in the treatment of acute migraine (Headache Currents 2004;1(1):20–21). In addition, he has conducted a randomized, open label study that examined the effectiveness of a combination of triptan and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in decreasing migraine recurrence rates (BMC Neurology 2004; 4(10):1471–2377).

“Being honored by the AAN is the highest recognition that a neurologist may achieve,” he said in a news release.


Dr. Brett Kissela


Brett Kissela, MD, received this year's Michael S. Pessin Stroke Leadership Prize at the AAN Annual Meeting in Miami for his work in post-stroke outcomes. Dr. Kissela is Assistant Professor and Residency Program Director at the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Kissela said in a news release that he is especially interested in determining the factors most relevant to post-stroke outcomes, and also learning the biologic mechanisms that are associated with recovery. He has focused on the effect of diabetes in stroke outcome and recovery.

“Ultimately I hope to use this information to intervene in ways that will help patients achieve maximal recovery after a stroke,” he said.

Some of his past work includes leading a study that concluded that excess stroke-related mortality in blacks is due to higher stroke incidence rates, particularly in the young and middle-aged. The research paper states that this phenomenon is one of the most serious public health problems facing the US (Stroke 2004;35:426–431).

The award recognizes neurologists who are just starting out in their careers and who have shown a passion for learning and expanding the field of stroke research.

Dr. Kissela is also Co-director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship and Vice-Chair of Graduate Medicine Education and Hospital Service at the University of Cincinnati. He is a member of the AAN Graduate Education Subcommittee and served previously as Chair-elect of its Consortium of Neurology Program Directors.


Dr. David A. McCormick


Neuroscientist Arlene Chiu, PhD, has been appointed Director of Scientific Programs and Reviews at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

Dr. Chiu was formerly Associate Director of the Office of Research Administration of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), a division of the NIH. As Associate Director, she supervised grants management, extramural review, and policy programs. She also previously worked as Program Director of Stem Cell Research and of Spinal Cord Injury at the NINDS.

Dr. Chiu worked extensively on stem cell related work while at the NIH, serving on both the NIH Stem Cell Task Force and the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee. She also organized the first NINDS workshop on stem cells and has represented the US at stem cell conferences in England, Korea, Sweden, and China. In Sweden she worked to promote collaborations between stem cell researchers in the US and abroad. At the NINDS, she worked with the Food and Drug Administration to promote the use of stem cells for therapies. In addition, she has co-edited a book on the topic titled, “Human Embryonic Stem Cells” (AACC Press, 2003).

Dr. Chiu's expertise is in developmental neurobiology. Her independent research work has focused on mammalian motor neurons and their responses to injury and disease.

In her new position, Dr. Chiu will be responsible for managing the research portfolio of the Institute and for overseeing the awarding of grants.

“CIRM provides a unique opportunity for investigators in California to move stem cell research forward in new directions and at a rapid pace,” she said in a news release.

San Francisco was selected in early May as the permanent location for the state-funded administrative headquarters responsible for distributing $3 billion for stem cell research over the next ten years.

The CIRM was created as part of Proposition 71, legislation passed by a referendum in 2004 that made California a magnet for stem cell scientists looking to conduct research unfettered by current federal restrictions. The Institute is expected to house 50 employees and will distribute the money in the form of grants and loans to California universities and research institutions.

According to Nicole Pagano, Senior Communications Specialist at the CIRM, the Institute has filled about 14 of 50 available positions. For more information on employment opportunities at CIRM visit


Dr. Donald W. Cleveland


In May, four neuroscientists were awarded the Senator Jacob Javits Award in Neurosciences, which offers up to seven years of research funding through the NINDS.

The Award is presented to investigators involved in innovative and exceptional research supported by the NINDS. The award guarantees funding for the first four years and may also provide it for three more. NINDS employees and members of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council nominate investigators and the winners are ultimately selected by the NINDS Director.

The award program was established in 1983 by the US Congress, and honors the late Senator Jacob K. Javits (Rep.) who advocated for research on a variety of neurological disorders and who himself suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

This year's award recipients include Donald W. Cleveland, PhD, Professor in the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Departments of Medicine and Neuroscience at the University of California-San Diego; David A. McCormick, PhD, Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Yale University School of Medicine; Wade G. Regehr, PhD, Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School; and Ivan Soltesz, PhD, Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of California-Irvine.

Dr. Cleveland currently studies the radial growth of axons. The award will help support his research to identify the process that causes radial axonal growth of motor neurons. He will also study how mutations in the ALS-linked enzyme superoxide dismutase 1 trigger cell toxicity and cause selective cell death in motor and non-motor neurons. (See Trends in Neuroscience 2004;27(5):235–238.)

Dr. McCormick studies the functions of the cerebral cortex, such as activity associated with working memory and association. He hopes his work will contribute to a better understanding of seizures and epilepsy. This will include focusing on how the cortex performs behavioral tasks without causing epileptic seizures and how its ion currents maintain a balance of excitation and inhibition. (See J. Neurosci. 2005;25:1866–1880.)

Dr. Regehr will study the individual mechanisms and relationships of multiple forms of short-term plasticity, the changes in strength that synapses undergo during behavioral tasks. His work is expected to bring about greater understanding of disorders such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, and depression. (See Nature 2004;431(7010);796–803.)

Dr. Ivan Soltesz plans to test the hypothesis that neuronal hyperexcitability following head trauma is caused by impaired inhibition to the dendrites of specific brain cells in selectively injured signaling loops. He hopes his work will lead to new antiepileptic treatment strategies. (See Neuron 2003;39:599–611.)


Dr. Ivan Soltesz


Kimberly Idoko, a first-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and Ksenia Prosolovich, a senior at the University of California-Los Angeles, were awarded this year's Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience.

The scholarship program was established last year by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Division of Neurosurgery to recognize scholars who have shown the initiative and talent to make contributions to this field of science.

The award winners will participate in summer fellowships at Cedars-Sinai; the graduate-level researcher receives $2,500 a month and the undergraduate receives $2,000 a month.

They will work on a research project under the direction of Keith L. Black, MD, Director of the Division of Neurosurgery, and will focus on one of the following areas: blood-brain barrier and drug delivery in the CNS, immunology and cancer vaccine, gene therapy, gene discovery or advanced surgical discovery. The recipients are also expected to complete an abstract or scientific paper for submission to a national neuroscience, cancer, or neurosurgery organization.

Ms. Idoko graduated from Yale University with a degree in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and is working towards degrees in medicine and business administration at the University of Pennsylvania. At Yale she completed a senior thesis that explored the immunologic route of infection of cytomegalovirus infection in the brain, which received highest honors.

Ms. Prosolovich has volunteered at Cedars-Sinai since the age of 16 and later volunteered in the neurosurgical facilities and in a research laboratory at UCLA. She plans to earn an MS and PhD in a neuroscience specialty.

The scholarships were presented at an awards ceremony on May 19 hosted by Star Jones Reynolds, host of ABC's “The View” in New York City.