April 4, 2008

American Academy of Neurology honors VUMC’s Macdonald

Featured Image

Robert Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D.

American Academy of Neurology honors VUMC’s Macdonald

Vanderbilt's chair of Neurology has been awarded the highest honor given by the American Academy of Neurology.

Robert Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D., will present the 2008 Robert Wartenberg Lecture for outstanding clinical research at the upcoming AAN conference.

Macdonald also was presented with the 1996 Cotzias Award and Lecture by the Academy, and is believed to be the first person honored with both lectures.

“It's a tremendous honor to be asked to present my research at the main lecture of the AAN,” Macdonald said. “If you look at the list of the people who have received the award, it's a terrific list of leaders in neurology.

“It's all very exciting, so I'm basically speechless. I'm very honored to be able to do it.”

Macdonald's research examined epilepsy mutations in GABAA receptors, which mediate inhibitory synaptic transmission in the brain.

He developed an interest in epilepsy as a resident more than 30 years ago and has spent much of his career exploring the disorder, which afflicts up to 50 million people worldwide.

In 2001, the discovery of the mutations led to his current research.

“The whole talk will be about the relationship between the epilepsies and these mutations,” he explained.

“We were positioned perfectly to study this, because we'd been studying the receptors for many years.”

Understanding these mechanisms could lead to more effective treatments for patients, as well as possibly preventing some types of epilepsies, Macdonald believes.

His selection for the Wartenberg Lecture also supports the relevance of these studies, he added.

“The award highlights the area of your research, so it's considered something that's topical and thought to be an area of research that's moving rapidly,” he said.

Macdonald will present his lecture April 15 in Chicago at the 60th annual AAN annual meeting. He also will appear in a video honoring neuroscience researchers that will be shown during the awards luncheon the following day.

The Academy is the nation's largest practice-based neurology organization, with more than 20,000 members. The Wartenberg Lecture has been awarded each year since 1975.

Macdonald also is the president-elect of the American Neurological Association and the former president of the American Epilepsy Society.