Preserving the mind: key takeaways from AAN 2022

By: Peter Ngum, Clinical Application Specialist
For the first time in 3 years, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) held its annual meeting, the Great Neuro Reunion, in person in Seattle, Washington. The seven-day event consisted of top-tier educational sessions and extensive networking opportunities with the neurology community.
My interest in attending was two-fold: to support my work at Combinostics and learn more about clinical neuroscience as it relates to my research at the University of Turku. Much of the program was educational, with over 150 courses featuring question-and-answer sessions and hands-on workshops. I attended many of these, in addition to plenary sessions, lectures, group talks, specialist group meetings, and more about medical ethics and drug and medical device developments. In addition, I visited many of the industry representatives at their booths and interacted with as many conference attendees as possible. Given our varied locations and backgrounds, it was interesting to learn more about different research areas and subspecialities, such as movement disorders or multiple sclerosis.

Advances for traumatic brain injury

I listened with interest to the description of a study investigating the use of stem cell therapy to improve motor skills in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). If successful, this could have a huge impact on people with TBI.

The potential implications of long COVID-19

Several conversations I had touched on the potential long-term implications of COVID-19-related neurological changes. It was interesting that some people are hypothesizing that these neurological changes could accelerate neurodegeneration and potentially lead to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in people with an existing predisposition. Given the number of people who have been infected by COVID-19, will we see an uptick in related AD cases in the future?

AI: the future of neurology?

The AI sessions I attended were packed — I think the interest in AI may have been underestimated!

The broad interest appeared to be from the many far-reaching effects AI could have on the future of neurology. At Combinostics, I have the opportunity to see AI help radiologists and neurologists provide more accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment options for their patients with neurological disorders. It was interesting to hear how others are applying the technology to improve patient lives, such as automated notifications to the referring neurologist when AI detects a blockage in the brain of a stroke patient.

Controversies in neurology

The “Controversies in Neurology” track offered plenary sessions organized as debates, with two experts presenting opposing viewpoints. After listening to both arguments on day 1 regarding the evaluation and treatment of adult patients with a single unprovoked seizure, I was convinced that they should not be treated as though they had epilepsy because of the proportion of initial seizures that are actually mimics of other conditions. The decision to treat should, of course, be based on individualized assessments that weigh the risk of recurrence according to established evidence-based clinical guidelines.

The Great Neuro Reunion provided an opportunity for me to learn about cutting-edge research in neurology, network with researchers, and discuss advances in research. The advances in research are plenty, and the future looks promising.

Soon, our team will be headed to ASNR. Stop by booth 109 or schedule some time to chat during the event about our AI-driven software tools that support early detection, differential diagnosis, prediction of progression, and patient monitoring in memory disorders.