Rock ‘n’ Roll, Neuroscience Share the Stage at ‘Music for the Mind’

Posted in GUMC Stories

MAY 6, 2014—The rock tunes that defined a generation brought joy and hope to a solemn subject at “Music for the Mind,” an event to support new cures and treatments for neurologic diseases.

Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) hosted the fourth annual fundraiser April 30, held this year at Arena Stage in Washington. Nearly 150 attendees gathered for a cocktail reception in the unique venue, which boasts a 35,000-square-foot glass wall “curtain” surrounding the building.  

The focal point of the evening was the performance of “Smokey Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller,” featuring Tony award winners Levi Kreis, E. Faye Butler and Nova Y. Payton.

Seeding Young Investigators

Speaking prior to the show, Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD , executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine, said in the four years since it started, Music for the Mind has helped five young investigators “transition their work to the phase where it will have the greatest impact” on biomedical research and on patients.

“It’s through an event like this that we can support some of the best ideas that are ready to grow and to move to the next stage,” Federoff said.

He cited as one prominent example 2011 Young Investigators Fund awardee Charbel “Charlie” Moussa, MBBS, PhD, whose laboratory research has found that a drug already approved to treat leukemia halts the accumulation of toxic proteins linked to Parkinson’s disease in mice. In part because of the support he received from Music for the Mind, Moussa is poised to launch a human clinical trial to study this finding further.

The 2013 awardee, Irfan Y. Tamboli, PhD, is using his award money to pursue a novel theory about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease . Looking at the APOE genes, which transport lipids—or fats—in the brain, Tamboli has shown that the E4 form of APOE is less efficient at transporting lipids to brain cells than other variants of the gene. This has shed light on the connection between APOE—known to be the prominent genetic risk factor for non-familial Alzheimer’s disease—and neurodegeneration.

Federoff and his colleagues also made headlines in the last few months for a recently published study that identified a new blood test that predicted Alzheimer’s disease with 90 percent accuracy in older, healthy adults. While the study requires further validation and testing, it heralds the potential for new treatment strategies for the disease that currently offers a bleak prognosis.

In introducing Federoff, past Music for the Mind Co-Chair Bill Schreiner lauded the discovery of the blood test as a slight break on the horizon offering hope that funding and awareness are moving the needle in neuroscience research.

“Exciting things are really starting to happen,” Schreiner said.

Success Stories

Federoff also cited the clinical partnership with MedStar Health as another factor that has bolstered the success of GUMC’s neuroscience research portfolio.

Because of this alliance, GUMC has successfully launched several major regional neuroscience initiatives, including the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery in conjunction with MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital and the Huntington’s Disease Care, Education and Research Center in collaboration with MedStar Georgetown University Hospital .

One of the Family

Pat Harvey, whose husband died of Alzheimer’s in 2001 after four years of treatment in Georgetown’s Memory Disorders Program, has been attending Music for the Mind since its inception four years ago.

Harvey, who is on the event organizing committee, said she will continue to come every year in the hopes that her support will spur even more exciting research. She also comes for a more personal reason: in her years of attending lab tours at Georgetown and of building relationships with the researchers and physicians, Harvey said the GUMC neuroscience community has begun to “feel like family.”

“As long as they keep doing this, I will be here. It’s a very collegial atmosphere and it is nice being a part of it,” she said.

Honorary co-chairs of this year’s event were Mark and Jeanne Shriver.  The premier event sponsor was Shawn Taylor of KPB Corporation.

To schedule a lab tour or for more information on Music for the Mind, call (202) 687-3660 or email

For more event photos, click here .

By Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications