The Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center was established by an endowment in 1977 to focus on epilepsy and developmental disorders of the nervous system. The late Dr. Mervyn Susser, in collaboration with his wife, Dr. Zena Stein, led the Center as founding director until 1991, when Dr. Richard Mayeux was named the Sergievsky Professor and director. At that time the Center's mission changed to include neurological disorders that affect humans throughout life from birth to death. The Center also began to integrate biological markers and genetic analysis with traditional epidemiology in clinical investigations to explore the etiology and pathogenesis of diseases of the nervous system.
The need for highly specialized studies like the Sergievsky Center has increased and will continue to expand as we learn more about neurological disorders and their consequences. We see tremendous areas for growth: exploiting the genome and developing new treatments for diseases of the nervous system. Fundamental to this process has been the continuing organizational approach to these complex disorders. Located in the heart of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the center has active collaborative research with colleagues in Medicine, Neurology, Pathology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Epidemiology.
The continued interest of Sergievsky Center investigators in perinatal epidemiology and neurodevelopmental disorders has been strengthened by new projects. Our efforts have increased to examine single mutations in genes underlying fundamental metabolic components of the brain and perinatal transmission of AIDS. We continue to investigate the long-term consequences of low birth weight from the perinatal network established by Mervyn Susser over three decades ago.
One of our main areas of interest continues to be Alzheimer's disease and the aging nervous system. This is one of the largest sections of Sergievsky Center's research efforts and continues to examine genetic and environmental risk factors, treatment, and interventions for Alzheimer's disease and other age-related brain diseases. In related areas of research, Sergievsky investigations include Parkinson's disease and related movement disorders, as well as cerebrovascular disorders.
In conjunction with the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain, Sergievsky investigators have expanded cognitive neuroscience with comprehensive neuropsychological assessment and imaging technology to study brain behavior relationships in health and disease.
Family studies and genetic epidemiology naturally include studies of epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and other neurological disorders. The Sergievsky Center has developed a statistical genetics group for analysis of genetic epidemiological studies underway at Columbia University and with our collaborators throughout the United States.
Some of the Sergievsky Center faculty created and maintain a Huntington's disease clinic and a Memory Disorders Clinic. We also coordinate a large number of clinical trials for these disorders.
The chronicity of many neurological diseases brings increasing financial and emotional costs to individuals, families, and the nation. Because there are so few animal models in which human diseases can be easily studied, it was mandatory to investigate these problems in representative populations.
Combining the discoveries in molecular biology and genetics with large-scale epidemiologic approaches, Sergievsky Center investigators hope to identify fundamental causes for some of these nervous system disorders with the long-term goal of successful intervention.
The Sergievsky Center and its participating scientists are uniquely prepared to make the best possible use of this new knowledge and technology as they face the changing circumstances of our time.