Mahlon DeLong, M.D., Professor of Neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine, will receive the $100,000 prize in recognition of his contributions to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
DeLong’s research – spanning a 40-year career in medicine and science – identified the anatomical brain circuits involved in the clinical features of Parkinson’s disease and a novel target for surgical intervention, the subthalamic nucleus, a portion of the basal ganglia, brain structures located deep in the brain.
This finding paved the way for the application of high frequency deep-brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus, a technique now used worldwide for advanced Parkinson’s disease patients. More than 100,000 individuals have received the treatment, which suppresses tremor and other motor impairments, and improves the ability to carry out the normal activities of daily living.
“Dr. DeLong’s contribution to improved care and quality of life for patients with devastating movement disorders is remarkable,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Taubman Institute, and a professor at the U-M Medical School. “He exemplifies the ethos of the dedicated clinician-scientist. We are honored to recognize his extraordinary contributions by awarding him the Taubman Prize.”
DeLong was selected by a national panel of eminent medical science experts from among dozens of nominees for the Taubman Prize. Over decades he and his colleagues have mapped brain activity and deciphered the complex pathways and circuitry involved with the processing of motor functions, thoughts and emotions. Insights gained through his basic research, animal models and experiments eventually led to a clearer understanding of the abnormalities in brain circuits in animal models of Parkinson’s and how interruption of a key portion of the motor circuits could dramatically improve clinical features.
DeLong’s studies contributed greatly to the revival of surgical approaches for treating movement disorders. The development of the novel technique of high frequency deep-brain stimulation, using implanted electrodes, by Dr. Alim Louis Benabid in Grenoble, France, when applied to the subthalamic nucleus in patients with Parkinson’s produced a similar result as surgical interruption. DBS, because of its less invasive, reversible and adjustable features, rapidly replaced direct, irreversible destructive lesioning approaches.
DeLong, the William Timmie Professor of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, will present the keynote address at the Taubman Institute’s annual symposium on Oct. 16, 2015 at the Kahn Auditorium on the U-M medical campus. The symposium is open to the general public.
The Taubman Prize was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding translational medical research beyond the University of Michigan. It includes a $100,000 award and is presented each year to the non-U-M clinician-scientist who has done the most to transform laboratory discoveries into clinical applications for patients suffering from disease.