Director's Messages

The value of fundamental neuroscience cannot be overstated enough. Since the discoveries of Santiago Ramón y Cajal well over a century ago, basic neuroscience research has continuously advanced our understanding of the workings of the nervous system.

With each new year comes possibility and promise. The challenges we have faced in 2021 continue to test our grit and in some ways, our patience. My deepest sympathies go out to those of you who have experienced loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet despite these challenges, I have witnessed our research and scientific community endure and persevere. With this in mind, I am steadfast and certain that there is much to be hopeful for in 2022.

From the Hippocratic corpus, the author writes, “I consider the responsibility of medicine to be to entirely relieve the suffering of the sick and to blunt the extremities of disease” (The Art 3.4-7)1. Note that despite the acknowledgement that disease may only be blunted, in promoting health it is our duty to relieve suffering wherever possible.

In the United States, rare and ultra-rare diseases are defined as conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 or 6,000 people, respectively. While these numbers may seem small, they add up to a large burden: collectively, nearly 30 million Americans are living with one of the roughly 7,000 known rare or ultra-rare diseases.

At NINDS, we anchor our efforts and activities on our mission statement: seeking fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system, and using that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease for all people. I have been reflecting on that last clause often lately: for all people.

Neurodegenerative diseases result from progressive damage to cells and connections in the brain, spinal cord and nerves, impairing a person’s ability to move, think, communicate, or feel, and often ultimately lead to death.

Around 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press and since then science has been communicated in “papers”. However, current and future technologies for data storage and sharing offer new opportunities to enhance the value of meticulously collected data.  

This Pain Awareness Month, I am reflecting on how the experience of pain reaches beyond its physical sensation. The pain circuits in our bodies are built to protect us from harm – for example, moving away from a hot flame, or building long-lasting memories/reflexive actions that prevent injurious behaviors.

NINDS is committed to funding research that, by improving our understanding of how the brain and nervous system works, reduces the burden of neurological disorders and injuries.

Clinician-scientists, who understand diseases and disorders intimately due to their clinical training and practice, are critical to accomplishing the NINDS mission.

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