The Brain Institute of Louisiana is a private, non-profit foundation with a primary goal of enhancing brain health in Louisiana through medical research and education.
VisionThe vision is to improve health outcomes in Louisiana through innovative research and education.
COLLABORATIVE & INDEPENDENT
The Brain Institute of Louisiana is an independent research and educational institute. Our independence allows for cross-fertilization through collaborations with scientists, clinicians, students, and educators from many different disciplines and from many different institutions.
CUTTING-EDGE INNOVATIONInnovation through medical research leads to cutting-edge scientific study that improves the quality of life for many people who suffer from brain disorders. Our goal is to rapidly translate research into clinical practice. Our projects use state-of-the-art research methods to advance brain science.
COLLEGIAL & INTERDISCIPLINARY
The best way to improve brain health is through interdisciplinary research and education. Our projects engage clinicians, physician-scientists, speech-language pathologists, neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, and educators to work together to improve brain health in Louisiana.
The human brain is a complex organ. Brain functions include many different cognitive operations like thinking, speaking, reading, and remembering. People with cognitive disorders have difficulty speaking, reading, and remembering. Brain health is a lifelong pursuit. Healthy brains can change with increasing age. Older adults may have the sudden onset of speech and language problems following a stroke. Degenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, have a slower onset with progressive changes in thinking, speaking, reading, and remembering. Children can have delays in speech or language development. These learning differences may resolve, but in some children speech and language difficulties persist. Our research focus is ‘brain health’ through scientific investigation of brain functions in healthy people and in people with cognitive disorders.
OUR RESEARCH STUDIES FOCUS ON:
- Learning more about brain function in healthy people
- Conducting patient-oriented clinical studies to improve brain health.
The Brain Institute is unique among other institutes and centers of excellence in Louisiana because our research studies involve human volunteers, not animals. We conduct clinical patient-oriented research so we can rapidly translate what we to learn to improve patient care.
A special area of interest is the study of how we communicate through speaking, reading, learning, and gesturing. This focus extends to our studies of communication disorders seen in developmental disorders like stuttering, autism spectrum disorder, and dyslexia. Our research efforts include the study of adult-onset disorders including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias. Traumatic brain injury following motor vehicle accidents and sports-related brain injury is another research focus. Research efforts are organized in two main areas: brain development and brain aging. Brain development studies examine how the brain changes during development. Brain aging studies examine how the brain changes with age. Diseases and conditions that affect the brain are studied with a focus on how to reduce the risk of disease and to improve function.
Relevant to Problems in Louisiana
EARLY BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
- Louisiana has the second highest percentage of low birth-weight babies in the nation.
- Low birth-weight is associated with delayed brain development and early brain injury.
- Early brain injury and delayed brain development lead to many cognitive problems.
- Some cognitive problems include difficulty learning to speak and to read.
- In Louisiana 30% of our third graders do not read at their grade level. In some of rural parishes, rates of third grade reading failure are as high as 70%.
- In Louisiana, children with speech, language, and reading problems receive special education services and are classified in one of two categories: (a) Specific Learning Disability and (b) Speech/language impairment. These two disability categories made up 61% of the Louisiana special education caseload.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or a diagnosis of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder make up the remaining Louisiana special education caseload.
- Poverty and other environmental factors put a child at increased risk for the development of cognitive and behavioral health problems. There is a high level of poverty in our state. Over 20% of Louisiana citizens live below the poverty level. This rate is 1.5 to 2 times greater than the national rate of about 12%.
AGE-RELATED BRAIN CHANGES
- Louisiana consistently ranks 49th or 50th on the list of healthiest states and 1st on the list regarding lack of access to healthcare.
- Louisiana has a high rate of chronic medical conditions like hypertension, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. These conditions increase the risk of stroke.
- Louisiana has a higher rate of stroke than many other states. In the United States someone has a new stroke every 40 seconds.
- Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and is the major cause of disability.
- About 5.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Unless a cure or other preventive measure is found, 16 million Americans will suffer from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by the middle of this century.
- Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. One in 10 persons over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 suffer with some degree of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Disease onset is earlier in Louisiana in comparison to the rest of the nation.
- Alcohol affects the brain. Excessive alcohol use is associated with learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Underage drinking is a significant problem in Louisiana. About 24% of 8th graders in Louisiana consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to only 16% of 8th graders nationally.
- Alcohol and substance abuse are associated with unintentional traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injury can lead to many cognitive and behavioral problems.
- Louisiana has high rates of exposure to stress. New Orleans and the gulf south region were impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The BP oil spill occurred in 2009. Catastrophic flooding occurred in 2016. These types of stressful events can adversely affect brain health.