In The Field

AAN: It all kicks off

I’m here in Toronto, Canada for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. It’s quite a clinically-focused meeting bringing together an estimated 10,000 physicians, researchers and trainees to discuss and absorb the latest scientific research in neurology.

I’m planning to get to sessions on everything from neurogenetics and traumatic brain injury, to neurology in the Old Testament. But before all that got going properly today, the meeting kicked off last night with a ‘Celebration for Research’. Read: geek entertainment.

First came the annual fixture that is Neurobowl – just imagine what might happen if University Challenge host Jeremy Paxman swallowed a neurology textbook, and you’re close to the content of this live neuro gameshow. Two teams (Canada vs USA) fought to be the first to buzz in and diagnose a patient case on the basis of their history. You’ll get more of an idea of the difficulty level in this clip. I scored approximately minus 35 points before deciding I’d need to retrain before applying for a place on a Neurobowl team.

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Following the quiz, acoustic guitarist Billy McLaughlin performed a few instrumental numbers, made all the more poignant by his diagnosis with focal dystonia, a condition in which misfiring neurons cause the fingers of his left hand to contract and curl towards the palm. He has overcome the condition by switching sides and playing his guitar with his right hand at the fretboard. Billy was followed on stage by comedy troupe The Second City, who thoughtfully ad-libbed a few neurology references into their sketches and improv.

Stay tuned over the next few days for more on the scientific sessions at AAN.

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