December 20, 2007

Charlie Rose Science Series Focuses on the ‘Mysteries of the Human Brain’

NEW YORK, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The brain -- the most complex organ in the human body -- has challenged and fascinated mankind throughout the centuries. From feelings, impulses, memory to motor skills and reflexes, the human brain controls nearly every aspect of our daily lives. While it has untapped potential, the brain is also susceptible to some of the most debilitating and devastating diseases.

In the latest episode of the Charlie Rose Science Series, Charlie Rose and co-host Sir Paul Nurse, Noble Laureate and president of Rockefeller University, are joined by leading neurologists and psychiatrists for an informative exploration of the mysteries of the human brain, illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, autism and depression. The distinguished group will address the latest brain research, new technologies, and other breakthrough therapies leading to better understanding of what happens in the brains of the seriously depressed.

The 12th installment of the Charlie Rose Science Series, which is sponsored by Pfizer Inc, will begin airing on December 20, 2007, on more than 200 PBS stations across the country.

"There are more than 600 diseases that affect the brain and rob victims of physical abilities, mental acuity, and even identity," said Charlie Rose. "Mental illness has been stigmatized and regarded as weakness throughout history, but today we realize the importance of this area of research. The medical implications are clear. Brain diseases also present scientific opportunities. Studying them could answer critical questions about the nature of human existence."

Charlie's specials guests are: Eric Kandel, MD, 2000 Nobel Laureate and Professor of Physiology and Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; Donald L. Price, MD, Professor of Pathology, Neurology, and Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Catherine Lord, PhD, Director, University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center; and Helen Mayberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine.

In recent years, scientists have conducted research that has advanced understanding of how the brain works. They have identified the aging of the brain and the development of disorders throughout its life cycle. There is new knowledge about risk factors such as mutant genes, life events that trigger major stress, and social dynamics. With this information about the brain, doctors are finding breakthrough treatments for these destructive diseases, which place tremendous burden on society along with costly public health problems in the United States.

The CDC estimates that Alzheimer's alone costs almost $150 billion annually in both direct and indirect costs. Even more startling, the combined total direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson's and ALS exceeds $250 billion annually. More astonishing is the fact that the National Institutes of Health's total health funds' budget allocation is a mere $29 billion, with $643 million earmarked for Alzheimer's disease, $108 million for autism research, $44 million for ALS, $207 million for Parkinson's, and $334 million for depression.

"There is so much to explore in terms of new targets and new technologies," said Dr. Martin Jefson, Vice President of Research for Central Nervous System diseases at Pfizer. "Ten years ago, we knew much less about molecules involved in wiring the brain and how they go awry in birth defects and adult diseases. Within the last five or six years, there has been tremendous progress in brain research, resulting in opportunities to develop new types of gene-based drugs or other therapies for neurological diseases. Pfizer's advanced research into diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia is all part of our effort to build on recent scientific advancements to discover new medicines and secure cutting-edge technologies and tools."

As science and medicine progressed over the years, the conceptualization of mental illness has changed. There are new insights into mood disorders, which include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are close to 21 million Americans adults -- or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population, age 18 and older, suffering from a mood disorder.

"We're really gaining knowledge and understanding about how the brain works and how it malfunctions to generate these different diseases," said Dr. Nurse. "I'm optimistic about the promise of brain imaging techniques, therapeutic intervention, and a combination of cognitive therapy and medication to treat these diseases. I feel we're on the edge of significant discoveries that will lead to more progress in the future."

Pfizer's support for the Charlie Rose Science Series and its exploration of the advances being made in scientific research, their contribution to our understanding of the world around us, and how these breakthroughs may be applied to improving human health is part of Pfizer's commitment to expanding scientific understanding.

Past episodes of the Charlie Rose Science Series have explored research that has led to a better understanding of the human brain; the discovery and mapping of human DNA; new insights into longevity and the body's aging mechanisms; an in-depth look at cancer, the latest advances in stem cell research; the problem of obesity in the American population especially among children and teenagers; the continually growing problem of HIV/AIDS worldwide; the prevention, treatment, global understanding of cardiovascular disease; emerging threats to global health and the search for effective treatments for diseases of the developing world; and human sexuality and sexual health.

For more information about the Charlie Rose Science Series or to watch clips from past episodes, please visit

Charlie Rose

CONTACT: Peter Saalfield of Charlie Rose, +1-212-617-1627,[email protected]; or Rexy Legaspi of Widmeyer Communications for CharlieRose, +1-646-213-7245, [email protected]

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