Facts about How Mount Sinai is Researching and Treating Brain Diseases

The Mount Sinai Medical Center is one of the world’s leading institutions in discovering better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat serious brain diseases.

New York, NY
 – December 14, 2012 /Press Release/  –– 

The Mount Sinai Medical Center is one of the world's leading institutions in discovering better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat serious brain diseases. Research is at the leading edge of this work, but translation of bench science to patient-centered care is the transcending asset at Mount Sinai.  


  • Mount Sinai is home to the oldest neurology department in the United States, which was established in 1900.
  • Mount Sinai is one of just five locations in the U.S. using combined MRI/PET technology to image the brain with an unprecedented level of precision. This allows physicians to find more effective interventions for neurological disorders, including addiction, Alzheimer's disease, depression and multiple sclerosis.
  • Mount Sinai is the first institution in New York State to use a newly approved imaging technique in the clinical setting to detect Alzheimer's disease at its earliest stages, before patients experience traditional symptoms of the disease.
  • Mount Sinai's pioneering work in Alzheimer's disease was spearheaded by its President and CEO, Kenneth L. Davis, MD, who formerly chaired Mount Sinai's Department of Psychiatry and whose groundbreaking work led to the discovery, development and approval of the first four drugs approved for Alzheimer's today.
  • The Center for Neuromodulation is a multidisciplinary team lead by leaders of Neurology and Neurosurgery. They are pioneering the way minimally invasive treatments, such as Deep Brain Stimulation, are used to treat Parkinson's disease, a variety of movement disorders, as well as some neurological conditions and chronic pain.
  • Mount Sinai's work in multiple sclerosis is driven by its leading-edge clinical trials program. The clinical trials unit tests experimental agents and allows patients access to groundbreaking therapies not yet widely available. Investigators have received more than $44 million in research grants for its work in multiple sclerosis—the largest amount ever awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for MS.
  • For the past half-century, Mount Sinai has been a leading world center for movement disorders, Parkinson's disease and dystonias in particular. Melvin Yahr, MD, who became Chair of Mount Sinai's Department of Neurology in 1974, helped establish the use of L-Dopa, still a mainstay of therapy. Mount Sinai Neurology has also been a leader in research into the use of cell transplantation and viral gene therapy for Parkinson's disease.


  • Researchers in Mount Sinai's Department of Neuroscience investigate the nervous system at the molecular, cellular, circuit and behavioral levels. Current research projects are directed at the pathology of the nervous system as well as the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction and how the brain changes over time.
  • Mount Sinai's Department of Neuroscience ranks number five in the nation for NIH funding.
  • Mount Sinai is focused on better understanding the molecular mechanisms of addiction and depression. Seminal studies looking at drug- and stress-induced changes in gene expression and chromatin structure are creating new opportunities for treatment based on emerging insights into gene expression due to modifications of DNA that do not alter its genetic sequence, a process known as epigenetics. Epigenetics determines which genes are expressed in cells and how modifications to gene expression can be passed on to future generations.
  • Mount Sinai scientists have performed groundbreaking research in defining the effects of aging on the intricate structure of nerve cells in the brain. John H. Morrison, PhD, Dean of Mount Sinai's Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences, has demonstrated the loss of connections between nerve cells during aging, a process that can be alleviated by estrogen, pointing toward new directions to maintain successful aging.
  • Using a technique known as optogenetics, Mount Sinai's Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai recently uncovered new information on how cocaine and opiate drugs of abuse affect the brain's reward center and how it could potentially be repaired. Dr. Nestler's research has discovered numerous proteins that are necessary for normal functioning of the brain's reward system, revealing new pathways and a target for treatment of addiction.


  • Mount Sinai is a leading expert in the treatment of intracranial meningiomas, non-cancerous brain tumors that affect thousands of patients in the United States every year. Mount Sinai's endoscopic, minimally invasive neurosurgical approaches reduce postoperative pain, speed recovery and shorten hospital stays. Brain tumor surgeons at Mount Sinai have also pioneered computer-assisted stereotactic techniques, making it possible to operate on tumors previously thought inoperable.
  • The Department of Neurosurgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is the first in the U.S. to use the NeuroTouch virtual-reality simulator—a device designed to closely mimic an actual brain surgery. This allows neurosurgeons in training to practice and hone their skills, and neurosurgery faculty to continually assess their skills and potentially to rehearse their procedures in advance.
  • Mount Sinai is home to the nation's leading Pituitary and Neuroendocrine program, which hosts the largest amount of experience in the north east, operates on nearly 200 tumor patients each year.  The most advanced diagnostic techniques are used including advanced imaging, petrosal sinus sampling and pathologic testing.
  • One of the strengths of the Department of Neurosurgery is the ongoing basic neuroscience and applied clinical research projects. Current research includes work in oncology, vascular, spine, trauma, functional and regenerational neurosurgery. In 2011 funding was received from the NIH for a 2 million dollar R01 grand to research axon regeneration after brain injury.
  • The cervical and cerebral angiogram program performs more carotid artery stents than any other medical center in New York City. Our surgeons are pioneering the use of advanced imaging and catheter based techniques to offer new treatment options for a broad range of conditions, often as an alternative to traditional "open" surgery.  
  • The Spine Disorders program is pioneering new treatments for acute or chronic spinal cord injury while providing the highest quality of care through our close relationships with the departments of anesthesia, pain, rehabilitation, cancer, and pediatrics.
  • Named after a former Mount Sinai Neurosurgery chairman, Leonard I. Malis, MD, the "Malis Bipolar Forceps" are one of the most commonly used neurosurgical tools in the world.


  • Mount Sinai's Department of Psychiatry is home to a series of specialized treatment centers that provide patients with advanced treatment options, including pharmacotherapy, psychosocial treatments (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and device-based procedures (such as Deep Brain Stimulation and Electroconvulsive Therapy). Outstanding programs are available across the life cycle, from children to elderly patients.
  • Mount Sinai's work in schizophrenia has led to a new understanding of the role of myelination, white matter, and oligodendrocytes in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, opening up an entirely new approach to this devastating disease.
  • Dennis S. Charney, MD, Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, together with researchers in Mount Sinai's Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program (MAP), has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of neural circuits and neurochemistry and to the discovery of new treatments for mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Charney's research team was the first to identify ketamine as a rapidly acting drug in patients with treatment-resistant depression.
  • Mount Sinai is leading the nation in using advanced DNA sequencing methods and related computational tools to identify genetic variations that cause schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism, among other mental illnesses.
  • The Seaver Center for Autism Research at Mount Sinai has made important advances in understanding the genetic and neural causes of autism and in using that information to drive the quest for improved treatments.

Rehabilitation Medicine

  • The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine was established in 1910, making it among the oldest, if not the oldest, of its kind in the United States.
  • As one of the original Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model Systems, Mount Sinai has developed interventions to treat cognitive and behavioral deficits associated with TBI, which are widely used elsewhere. The Brain Injury Research Center has developed the only screening instrument for TBI that is being used.
  • Mount Sinai has advised the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff on the management of TBI in the battle field.
  • Mount Sinai has the only "Injury Control Research Center Focused on TBI" funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The Department has started a pilot study on the functional and health benefits of robotic walking systems for persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) at our newly-established "Rehabilitation Bionics Program."
  • As an SCI Model System for 21 years, Mount Sinai faculty first demonstrated the clinical benefits of functional electrical stimulation ergometry and later led the development of the internationally-accepted classification of SCI pain.


  • The Department of Ophthalmology has a long history of productive vision science research contributing to the development of the new drugs to lower intraocular pressure and to neuro-protect in glaucoma, understanding how the brain processes color size and orientation properties for what we see, and a national leadership role in clinical trials for the treatment of intraocular inflammation (uveitis), the epidemiology of the ocular complications of AIDS, and clinical research methodology.  
  • The Department recently mapped the dynamics of corneal-limbal stem cells identifying critical clues to the stem cell renewal and expansion process that are expected to greatly improve the generation of these vision-saving cells.
  • Using genetic screening, the department has found a novel link between the aberrant accumulation of proteins in cells and the induction of scarring and fibrosis in the eye, thus providing new targets for preventing blindness, which also is applicable to preventing scarring in other tissues.
  • Mount Sinai has developed a model in sheep to study the causes and treatment of glaucoma and is pioneering the use of gene therapy to treat ocular hypertension in this model.  
  • Janet Serle, MD, has a primate model of glaucoma that has been used to evaluate nearly all treatments for glaucoma.  
  • Working with ocular oncologists, Mount Sinai has used electrodiagnostic techniques to evaluate vision preservation and recovery in eyes with retinoblastoma treated with locally infused chemotherapy.  
  • The Department of Ophthalmology leads several NIH-funded studies, including:
    • The Multicenter Uveitis Steroid Treatment (MUST) Trial an international, 23-center clinical trials group comparing an intraocular implant to conventional therapy with oral corticosteroids and immunosuppression for severe uveitis, an eye inflammation that can lead to vision loss.
    • Studies of the Ocular Complications of AIDS (SOCA) Research Group, a 13-center clinical trials and epidemiology network that has performed five clinical trials on the treatment of cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis and a long-term observational study of the course and outcomes of the ocular complications of AIDS in the era of combination antiretroviral therapy, resulting in information critical to recommendations on the management of these diseases.  
    • The Standardization Uveitis Nomenclature (SUN) project, which is a 59-center international group developing classification criteria for the 28 major uveitic diseases.