CareVets owner-director Ngaire Dixon (left) welcomes Prof
Anne Young, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard
Medical School, to the veterinary clinic in Queenstown
yesterday to discuss the neurological similarities between
humans and animals. Photo by James Beech.
Medical and veterinary minds met in Queenstown yesterday,
with discussions held on how changing diets improves the
condition of animals with brain disorders and how it could
apply to people living with Huntington's disease.
Prof Anne Young, of Massachusetts General Hospital and
Harvard Medical School, took time out from attending the 31st
Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research in the
resort to visit CareVets, Frankton.
Prof Young and three veterinarians discussed how humans and
animals were not so dissimilar neurologically. Prof Young
specialises in neurodegenerative diseases including
Huntington's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and said there were
animal models in everything, ''from fruit flies to yeast, to
sheep, and they're important because it's been possible to
try therapies on them you wouldn't try on people''.
CareVets owner-director Ngaire Dixon said brain disorders
could affect older cats and dogs, but the challenge was those
patients could not explain what was wrong with them.
A cat could forget where its food and water bowls were, but
the owner might think the cat was deliberately not eating. A
dog would bark through the night without reason, but the
matter could be ignored by the owner.
Vets were trained to spot telltale signs of brain conditions
in pets, Dr Dixon said.
''We rely on comprehensive neurological exams and go back to
basics by localising where lesions are to see what the
problem is,'' she said.
There were more than 48,000 people living with dementia in
New Zealand and the number was expected to triple by 2050.
Prof Young said diet could change dementia in animals, ''so
maybe we should look closer at diets with humans with
Prof Young was one of more than 140 international scientists
to attend the conference on brain research in the Copthorne
Resort Hotel from Saturday until today.
The purpose was to encourage interaction between a range of
academic and clinical brain research disciplines, including
anatomy, kinesiology, molecular biology, neural modelling,
neurochemistry, neurology, pharmacology, physiology and
The University of Otago's Brain Health Research Centre held a
special symposium on Alzheimer's disease as part of its 2013
Bob Knight from the centre will discuss the effects of
Alzheimer's disease in New Zealand, and the research going on
to develop a diagnostic blood test for the disease, at a free
public seminar in St Margaret's Church hall, Frankton, today