Monday, October 3, 2011
Neurologist William Seeley Wins MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’
BY JAMIE TALAN
William Seeley, MD, made a life-altering decision just one month before finishing medical school at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He was heading to a neurology residency at the Massachusetts General/Brigham and Women’s Hospitals but he wanted to spend his last elective judiciously.
One thing was certain: he loved the brain. He asked an advisor for the name of a neurologist who studied brain-behavior relationships. He landed on the door of Bruce Miller, MD, a neurologist and researcher who had just moved from UCLA to found the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF. Dr. Miller had spent the previous decade meeting with and describing a generation of dementia patients who seemed to lose control of their social behavior.
During that month-long elective, Dr. Seeley shadowed Dr. Miller in clinic, watching him interact with patients who had undergone shifts in their very essence — the core of their personalities. Together, they looked for brain imaging changes that might begin to explain this conversion of “self.”
This clinical research led to a paper published in Neurology in 2001. Throughout his neurology residency, Dr. Seeley couldn’t shake the memory of those patients and suspected that he would return to San Francisco to help unravel the mysteries of the disease that his mentor helped put on the diagnostic map: frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Today, a dozen years after that fateful elective, Dr. Seeley has made advances in the field, first with the identification of a population of neurons hard hit in FTD and then with detailed anatomical descriptions of FTD-related networks.
Read the Oct. 6 print edition of Neurology Today to learn more about Dr. Seeley’s triumphs in FTD research — as well as the mystery he still sees in the disease — and how it earned him the coveted ‘genius grant.’