Successful research on neurological movement disorders
Dr. med. Anne Weißbach from the Institute of Neurogenetics at the University of Lübeck has won the David Marsden Award 2019 from Dystonia Europe for her research work. She will receive the award, including prize money of 10,000 euros, on 6 July during the Dystonia Days in London.
Dr. Weißbach’s research focuses on neurological movement disorders that are caused by a single genetic variation in the DNA of patients (monogenic dystonia). These diseases generally cause involuntary muscle contractions resulting in repetitive, abnormal movements. Dr. Weißbach concentrates particularly on neural changes in the brain’s motor network and the clinical symptoms that result from these changes. The research involves a non-invasive and, for humans, medically safe brain stimulation technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Over the last eight years at the University of Lübeck and the University of Toronto, Canada, this technique has enabled her to identify striking interactions between different areas of the brain which are required for the correct planning and regular execution of movements. In subsequent studies she investigated the effects of various treatments, for example the use of neural transmitters such as dopamine, or substances that release neurotransmitters, or neurosurgical deep brain stimulation (also known as a “brain pacemaker”) on these pathologically modified interactions of the brain’s motor regions. In some cases she was able to identify clear improvement in these interactions. Monogenic dystonias can accordingly be understood as a model disease for idiopathic diseases – diseases whose cause is currently unknown – thus helping to illuminate their pathophysiology.
Dr. Weißbach receives research funding from sources including the German Research Foundation (436,000 euros in the funding period 2020–2023), and the Else Kröner Fresenius Foundation (215,000 euros in the funding period 2018–2020). Since 2018, she has had an Edmond J. Strafa grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The award from Dystonia Europe, which has been presented every two years since 2003, is named in honour of David Marsden (1938–1998), one of Europe’s leading neurologists of his time. The Marsden Award aims to support the research of young scientists in the area of neurological movement disorders.
Anne Weißbach was born in 1984 and studied medicine in Lübeck. She obtained her doctorate in 2009 with a dissertation on “Molecular-genetic investigations of neurological movement disorders”. Since 2018, she has been a doctor for neurology and a medical and scientific researcher at the Institute of Neurogenetics (Director Prof. Dr. Christine Klein) in the “Paediatric and Adult Movement Disorders and Neuropsychiatry” group with Prof. Dr. Alexander Münchau and Prof. Dr. Tobias Bäumer.