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May 16, 2011 - Image 7

Resource type:
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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-16

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Monday, May 16,2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

RAIL .
From Page 2
Sern Michigan.
"Any time people have choices in
transportation, it's a good thing,"
he said. "And with gas prices climb-
ing, I think that this just helps peo-
ple have choices."
Hoeffner added that the short-
age of funds forces the administra-
tors to be fiscally cautious because
even with the addition of federal
funds, upwards of $30 million are
still needed to improve signaliza-
tion and build sidetracks.
"When you have funding chal-
lenges it makes you think a little
harder on every investment that
you make and it helps you priori-
tize those investments better and I
thinkultimatelythat's important,"
he said.
Carmine Palumbo, director of
transportation programs for SEM-
COG, said in order to successfully
achieve the goal of building high-
speed rail throughout Southeast
Michigan, multiple steps must first
occur.

One way the plan attempts to
address congestion at the busy
Dearborn-Detroit corridor will be
the West Detroit Connection Track
Project, which involves creating
additional tracks to separate freight
trains and passenger trains. This
portion of the project has already
been allocated funds, and MDOT
plans to begin work this summer.
Upon completion, the project is
expected to reduce travel time in
the area by five to ten minutes.
Train cars are also in the process
of being renovated and SEMCOG
hopes to receive Federal Railway
Administration approval of the
seats by the end of May or early
June, Palumbo said. FRA approval
would allow for mass production
and installation of the seats, he
said.
Palumbo said since the goal of
running four roundtrips on week-
days is contingent on operating
funds, there is no set timeframe in
which the railway is expected to be
operational, adding that progress
on the rail has been slow because of
this uncertainty.
Despite budget constraints,
SEMCOG hopes to be able to soon

provide transportation to events
such as University football games
and the Thanksgiving Day parade,
and their goal is for these "event
trains" to be running by the end of
the year, according to Palumbo.
"The project continues to move
forward - not as quickly as any of
us would have liked - but nonethe-
less, we're going forward as best
we can, accomplishing all the tasks
that need to be accomplished," he
said.
City Councilmember Sabra Bri-
ere (D-Ward 1) agreed that the rail-
way would be a great addition to
regional public transportation.
"Whether (commuters) are tak-
ing the bus or the train is a decision
each person would make but I'd
like both options to be available,"
she said.
Briere said the majority of the
budget is controlled by the state
and federal levels of government,
and that the city of Ann Arbor has
very little to do with any financial
decisions.
"Unfortunately, a lot is depen-
dent on things that the city has
absolutely no control over," she
said.

'U' Hospital treats rare
neurological disorder

Researcher to join elite Academy

National Academy of
Sciences will induct
'U' researcher in April
ByKATE HUMMER
For the Daily
University neuroscience
researcher Huda Akil will join
the ranks of Albert Einstein,
Thomas Edison, Orville Wright
and Alexander Graham Bell with
her recent invitation into the elite
National Academy of Sciences for
her groundbreaking discoveries
related to sensory experiences and
emotions.
Akil - who serves as co-director
of the University's Molecular &
Behavioral Neuroscience Institute
and was named the Gardner C.
Quarton Distinguished Professor
of Neurosciences in the Depart-
ment of Psychiatry at the Univer-
sity's Medical School - has been
researchinghow brains biologically
process pain, depression, stress and
substance abuse. She will be among
72 other researchers granted mem-
bership to the NAS program next
April.
Akil said the University has

greatly aided her and her team by
supporting their endeavor to iden-
tify and develop research involving
the use of endorphins to actively
inhibit pain.
"My home department, psy-
chiatry, has been generous to us in
many ways, including supporting
our quest for understanding fun-
damental brain biology even when
it was unclear how it would have
clinical implications," Akil said.
Currently, Akil co-directs the
University's branch of the Pritzker
Neuropsychiatric Research Con-
sortium - an association dedicated
to finding genes and neurobiologi-
cal processes that may cause psy-
chological disorders such as major
depression, bipolar disorder and
schizophrenia.
Akil elaborated on her ongoing
research, which attempts to devel-
op increased collaboration between
biological research of brain-related
disorders and clinical applications
of the findings.
"Throughout my career, I have
been interested in how the funda-
mental knowledge that we acquire
about the brain might be used to
help people who are suffering from
brain-related disorders," Akil said.
"I believe that there is no greater

burden on us humans than when
our brains are not functioning well
- regardless of whether this affects
our senses, our movements, our
thoughts or our feelings."
While Akil said she is proud of
her contributions to the research,
she would also like to share the
credit of her election to NAS with
her fellow researchers.
"I am very honored by this elec-
tion, but I am also very mindful of
the fact that there are many other
scientists at the (University) and
beyond who are equally deserv-
ing of it," she said. "I also am very
grateful to many people who really
own a big part of it ... I feel that I
am simply representing a great sci-
entific team that brings together
people from all parts of the world
working together towards common
. goals."
Akil said that beyond the accom-
plishment of her invitation into the
NAS,sheviewstheexperienceasan
opportunity to extend her research
to a broader scientific community
and to the general public.
"In the end, the greatest reward
possible would be that our discov-
eries will actually help real people
improve their lives and alleviate
their suffering," she said.

Student recieves
world-renowned
treatment through
UMHS
By MARY HANNAHAN
Daily StaffReporter
Jackson Community College
sophomore Ryan Smith is your typ-
ical 20-year-old college student -
he attends classes, hangs out with
friends, works out at the gym - but
the scar running down the back
of his head reveals his struggle
against the neurological disorder
known as Chiari malformation.
When Smith began experi-
encing bizarre symptoms, such
as crippling headaches, out-of-
body experiences, numbness and
extreme anxiety in early 2009,
his doctor diagnosed him with
migraines and depression. Smith's
mother had the suspicion that he
was using drugs, but when treat-
ment didn't alleviate the extreme
symptoms, his doctor suspected
something else mustbe the cause.
After living with his illness and
being bedridden for two months,
Smith was diagnosed with Chiari
malformation, a condition where
the indent at the base of the skull
is abnormally small, resulting in a
fluid blockage between the brain
and spinal cord. Ryan was referred
to the University of Michigan
Health System and treated by Dr.
Karin Muraszko, a specialist in
pediatric neurosurgery and a
renowned expert on Chiari mal-
formations.
Muraszko determined that Chi-
ari malformation was the cause of
Ryan's crippling symptoms and
performed a decompression sur-
gery on him in April 2009. During
the surgery, Muraszko removed a
portion of the skull at the base of
the back of the head, which creates
room for fluid to flow between the
brain and spinal cord. Muraszko
said she was able to help Ryan
because of the unique capabilities
of UMHS's Department of Neuro-
surgery.
According to Muraszko, hos-
pitals typically need to send their
patients to various locations in
order to consult different spe-

cialists - but at the University of
Michigan Hospital all of the spe-
cialists are located in one place.
"He really required the exper-
tise of a wide variety of people
within the children's hospital and
within the neurosurgery depart-
ment to finally come to an under-
standing of what he had and how
best to treat it," she said.
Ryan's mother, Catherine
Smith, said she felt fortunate that
they were able to see an expert in
Chiari malformation so close to
their home of Jackson, Michigan.
After consulting a neurosurgeon
in Utah, who would have been
able to operate on Ryan sooner,
the physician told Catherine Smith
that her son would be better off
waiting for Muraszko to perform
the surgery because she is a world-
renowned specialist in the field
and had spent a significant amount
of time researching the illness.
"I can't even imagine there
being a better neurosurgeon for
that issue he had," Catherine said.
"I love Dr. Muraszko because she
reminds me of Dr. House - she
just doesn't hold anything back."
Ryan said he has not experi-
enced any headaches since the
surgery and that Muraszko made
him optimistic about his recovery.
"She pretty much gave me the
hope that I would get better, and
she was the one who recognized
what I had," Ryan said.
However, he said he suffers
from the anxiety that his condition
will come back - a common fear
he says exists among individuals
who undergo brain surgery to treat
a condition.
"I just thought headaches were
normal," he said. "I felt so much
better after the surgery, and I
wanted to go out and do stuff
because I felt so much better."
Catherine said the transforma-
tioninhersonwasmiraculous, and
that it changed his entire personal-
ity.
"It was like he was re-birthed at
seventeen and became a complete- '
ly different person," she said.
While Ryan used to be reclusive
and anti-social, Catherine said that
after the surgery he became more
outgoing and open with others.
"I give Dr. Muraszko all the
credit for giving me my kid back,"
she said.

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