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What if your brain showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease—decades before any symptoms occurred? Would you want to know? Alzheimer’s disease, which “can’t be slowed, stopped, or prevented,” is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Among older Americans, Alzheimer’s is more feared than any other disease, including cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Research suggests that the molecular changes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may occur up to two decades before symptoms appear. Clinicians are able to clarify diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease using molecular “biomarkers” found through techniques such as lumbar punctures or molecular brain scans. Someday, these techniques could be applied to cognitively normal people to predict whether or not they’ll develop the disease. But should they? Professional societies have cautioned against this use, given the lack of proven treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal individuals who test positive. Many of us would value knowing this health information, either in its own right or to help us plan for our futures. But society hasn’t caught up to living with a brain at risk. There are laws prohibiting employment insurance discrimination based on our genetic information; however these laws don’t apply to molecular biomarkers. Those who seek predictive testing may also face serious, unintended consequences from receiving this information.

An evening of conversation on the Future of Medicine with Dr. Leroy Hood, President of the Institute for Systems Biology, and Dr. Deepak Srivastava, Younger Family Director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.

Dr. Francis Collins is the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is responsible for coordinating the government-sponsored effort to map and sequence the entire human genome, considered by many as one of the most important scientific undertakings of our time. Dr. Collins is a physician and geneticist whose own work led to the identification of the genes for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington's disease. In this Webcast, Dr. Collins explains the different strategies for finding disease genes, the competition between public and private efforts to decode the human genome, and the next steps for the Human Genome Project, now that the first accurate gene maps have been created.

U.C. Berkeley Professor of Psychology Dr. Arthur Shimamura will discuss what we know about the effects of aging on human memory and its relation to Alzheimer's Disease. Find out how the brain stores and retrieves information, and learn new techniques that may help improve your memory.