Message from Science Working Group Leader

March 22, 2011

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The Neural Repair and Rehabilitation section continues to be under-represented in the scientific and educational programs at the AAN Annual Meeting. This is due to the small number of abstracts submitted, but may have to do with the structure of the programming. There were only 22 NREH posters and 4 oral abstracts on the program in Toronto, out of only 33 Abstracts submitted. It is concerning that although recovery-related topics are important to so many subspecialties in Neurology, and the clinical neuroscience of repair and recovery continues to be among the most exciting and forward looking of all Neurology subspecialty research we are not being represented in greater numbers to the general neurology constituency. Novel imaging studies of CNS neuroplasticity, emerging diagnostic and therapeutic neurophysiologic approaches such as TMS and tDCS, spinal cellular repair mechanisms, and combined pharmacological and behavioral treatment strategies, are hot topics in our field. These topics, however, are more often presented at subspecialty meetings such as ASNR/ACRM, rather than making it to the AAN Program Committee for consideration. With few abstracts being submitted and presented from our section, our visibility and stature within the academy is lessened, and could result in decreased vitality of our section and a stagnant membership roster.

In order to counteract this low activity level, and to increase visibility for our section, we need to have more cross-talk between sections. One proposal that we will be making to the Science Committee is to institute cross-referencing for abstracts at the Annual meeting. An abstract submitted under Neural Rehab and Repair that has to do with stroke recovery, for example, would acquire a cross-section designation, so that members of the Stroke Section would see it listed under Stroke as well. A Spine Abstract that described cellular mechanisms of repair would have a dual listing under those 2 headings. Such cross-referencing could be incorporated into the Twitter or Electronic Program Announcements to inform members of each section about topics that might have gone un-noticed because of a sole primary designation. A second idea to propose to the Committee on Sections is that a new position be created within each section—a Cross-section Liaison—whose job it would be specifically to develop cross-section educational and scientific programming. By bringing ideas for cross-section courses from one Primary section to be formally presented at another section meeting, cross-pollination of educational and scientific program ideas between sections will be facilitated.

I would also like to continue to urge all section members to bring along a colleague to the section meeting next year—a junior colleague if possible—with the goal of generating new ideas and increasing enthusiasm for the section. We clearly need also to submit more scientific abstracts. Although there is a perception that the AAN is not an ideal place to present scientific abstracts—that we have subspecialty meetings where the reception of scientific ideas will be better—it is reasonable to believe that by bringing the scientific advances to a more general forum such as the AAN, the whole field will benefit, generating more interest in the science of recovery, increasing visibility for our discipline, enhancing collaboration between subspecialties within the AAN, and ultimately, improving care for our patients who will benefit from a greater utilization of new treatments. The future of our section is up to us.
Let's keep the ball rolling!

Let's get moving!
Randolph S. Marshall, MD, MS