Online brain registry may help neuroscientists find cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, other disorders

The Internet is a one-stop shop for almost everything. People use the Internet to know the meaning of a foreign word or purchase a book that isn’t available in the local bookstore. People also go online to socialize with friends, play games, find a job, do research and a lot more.

Now, people can also use the Internet to contribute to something worthwhile, helping scientists understand the brain better which could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological diseases.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) are tapping the Internet to better understand the human brain and find potential cure for brain diseases. Through the website of Brain Health Registry, researchers hope to reduce the time and cost associated with conducting trials for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain diseases.

The brain registry, which was launched lately, is an online database project which seeks to streamline the otherwise lengthy and costly process of recruiting participants for studies on brain diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Many trials that sought to understand and find cure for brain ailments were hampered by the cost of finding recruit patients.

Michael Weiner, principal investigator of the registry and professor of neurology at UCSF described the initiative as wide scale neuroscience project that uses the Internet to advance clinical research.

“This registry is an innovative 21st century approach to science with tremendous potential,” Weiner said. “The greatest obstacles to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders are the cost and time involved in clinical trials. This project aims to cut both and greatly accelerate the search for cures.”

Joining the Brain Health Registry is free and anyone who is at least 18 years old can sign up. Volunteers will complete questionnaires and will be asked to provide some information which will be used to identify potential volunteers for future research studies that are reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the committee that oversees research that involves human subjects. Volunteers will also be asked to do neuropsychological tests which will be conducted through online games as this will provide information about their brain functions.

The project hopes to collect information from 100,000 individuals by 2017.