Brain health topic of talk

His earlier experiences as a physician have made University of Otago medical researcher Associate Prof John Reynolds vividly aware of the "devastating" damage strokes can cause.

Prof Reynolds, who is a neuroscientist and deputy director of the University of Otago's Brain Health Research Centre, was one of three leading neurological researchers who took part in a Dunedin panel discussion on brain health this week.

Chaired by broadcaster Kevin Milne, this was one of a series of panel discussions being presented by the Neurological Foundation to mark its 40th anniversary as a funder of neurological research.

The discussion, attended by more than 150 people, was devoted to "The Brain Matters: Progress Through Research", and was held at the university's College of Education Auditorium.

Prof Reynolds highlighted the positive "cross-fertilisation" between his earlier work as a physician and his current neurological research.

He recalled one busy day when, as a doctor at a northern hospital, he had been asking a series of diagnostic questions involving a stroke patient who had lost the ability to speak and was partly paralysed.

An accompanying family member had strongly pointed out that the patient concerned had a few hours earlier been the head of a local service club and had been running several companies.

Prof Reynolds later decided to pursue his interests in neuroscience and has subsequently won several fellowships and awards.

These included, in 2010, an inaugural Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to undertake applied research into stroke and epilepsy.

Another panelist, Prof Winston Byblow, director of the Movement Science Laboratory at Auckland University, strongly emphasised the value of regular physical exercise in maintaining brain health.

Studies had shown the protective benefits of such exercise, such as walking for about 35 minutes a day, he said.

If the same benefits could be gained by taking a pill, people would take it, but many remained loath to do the exercise because this was still regarded as a "four-letter word", he joked.

Another panelist, Prof Paul Glue, who heads the Otago psychological medicine department, discussed other new research approaches, including new insights into schizophrenia.

• The southern neurosurgery campaign received $50,000 yesterday from the Marsh Family Trust and Cooke Howlison. Chair of Neurosurgery campaign project manager Irene Mosley said the donation brought the total to $2,807,385.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz