Your brain, the next frontier

Ali Rezai, MD
Director, Wexner Medical Center Neurological Institute and Center for Neuromodulation

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The Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute, under Dr. Ali Rezai's leadership, is on the front lines of combating the significant rise in neurological disease across the United States.

The brain — and all of its wonderful complexities — is the next frontier to be explored. 

As we enter an unprecedented era of scientific discoveries around the brain, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute is focused on unlocking the mysteries of the brain to improve the lives of those with neurological conditions.

The need has never been greater. More than 50 million people in the United States and a billion worldwide are affected by disorders of the brain and nervous system. These numbers are increasing due to the aging population, longer life expectancies and the rising incidence of neurological disease.

Coming soon ...

To help meet this growing demand, the Wexner Medical Center plans to expand its Neurological Institute with the addition of a new Brain and Spine Hospital in the former James Cancer Hospital, utilizing space that became available when Ohio State’s cancer care moved into the new James facility in December. 

After a renovation, the Brain and Spine Hospital will open in early 2016 with 90 private rooms focused on the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, degenerative spine disorders and many others.

Patients will be grouped in disease-specific units — or neurological clusters — to improve patient care. For example, a stroke patient will receive treatment in the stroke unit, where a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, and others will provide comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate care. 

Once the renovation is complete, the Neurological Institute’s clinical enterprise will include the new Brain and Spine Hospital, Dodd Hall for inpatient rehabilitation, Harding Hospital for behavioral health and Talbot Hall for alcohol and drug addiction.

Relief for disease 

For the past two years, we’ve been working diligently to create the Neurological Institute, a university-wide initiative involving 13 colleges — including engineering, business, dentistry, social work, nursing and pharmacy — along with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, all collaborating with the Wexner Medical Center to develop innovative treatments. 

More than 185 dedicated physicians and researchers from neurology, neurosurgery, neuroscience, psychiatry and physical medicine and rehabilitation are part of the Neurological Institute.

Dr. Ali Rezai and his surgical team

Our team is conducting more than 300 clinical trials, including new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and ALS, many of which are offered only at Ohio State. We’re also providing comprehensive education for more than 110 residents, graduate students and trainees. 

The expansion of services at the Brain and Spine Hospital will not only serve patients in central Ohio, but will help residents throughout the state by providing access to Ohio State’s stroke experts through an extensive telemedicine program, as well as the new acute brain and spinal cord injury care units.

Additionally, our Center for Neuromodulation is one of the nation’s leading centers in developing treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Our neuromodulation team is among the most experienced in the country, performing deep brain stimulation for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Each year, our team of experts performs about 150 deep brain stimulation surgeries. Now we’re studying brain pacemakers to treat obesity, Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury.

Innovation for the future

Innovative research is a key focus. 

We’re collaborating with Battelle, a research and development firm based in Columbus, to develop an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries that reconnects the brain directly to muscles, allowing voluntary and functional control of a paralyzed limb in a quadriplegic.

Last June, for the first time ever, a paralyzed man was able to move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts, thanks to this innovative partnership. Ian Burkhart, a quadriplegic from Dublin, Ohio, who was paralyzed five years ago during a diving accident, is participating in the FDA-approved clinical trial at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center to help others with spinal cord injuries.

Ian Burkhart, a quadriplegic man from Dublin, Ohio, moving his hand and fingers for the first time in years

Also last year, the Ohio Third Frontier Commission approved $21 million in Technology Commercialization Center funds to form the Neurotechnology Innovations Translator in collaboration with Ohio State to help create multiple neurotechnology companies and high-tech jobs in Ohio.

In addition, the Wexner Medical Center and Department of Athletics are collaborating with the Air Force Research Laboratory on research to improve the physical and mental performance and health of military personnel, athletes and patients. 

We’re developing innovative human sensor technologies to detect, measure, analyze and improve overall health, physical and cognitive function to help patients with conditions including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injury, stroke, sleep disorders and chronic pain.

Just last week, we announced a transformational $10 million gift from Stanley and Joan “Jodi” Ross to advance research across the entire spectrum of brain health at our Neurological Institute. Their generous gift will establish the Stanley D. and Joan H. Ross Center for Brain Health and Performance, and will provide sustaining support for the leadership of the center and for life-changing research and education. We are grateful to Stan and Jodi for their partnership and commitment, which will make our vision a reality.

Our collaborative team works hard to deliver patient-centric, coordinated and personalized care. We tirelessly and relentlessly strive to advance neuroscience and develop medical innovations that improve function and quality of life, and to provide hope for our patients and their families here and around the world.

About the author

Ali Rezai, MD
Ali Rezai, MD -
Director, Wexner Medical Center Neurological Institute and Center for Neuromodulation

Dr. Ali Rezai, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and neuromodulation expert, is director of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Neurological Institute. He also serves as director of the Center for Neuromodulation. He specializes in deep brain stimulation through implanted brain pacemakers to treat Parkinson’s, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and traumatic brain injury. In 2014, Ohio State named him Innovator of the Year.


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