The Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases (Chairman: Prof. Dr. Thomas Gasser) was founded with the generous support of the Charitable Hertie Foundation and started operations on September 1, 2002. The department provides a comprehensive approach towards basic and clinical research in the field of neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders, from their molecular genetic basis and diagnosis to treatment.
Through its clinical division, the department provides care predominantly for patients with neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders in one inpatient unit of 2 beds (Ward 43) and a number of specialized outpatient clinics. Diagnosis, differential diagnosis, and treatment of these disorders are provided by specially trained staff on all levels, including nursing staff, physiotherapists, ergotherapists, speech therapists, and neurologists.
The department also offers specialized and up-to-date diagnostic procedures for neurodegenerative diseases, including innovative techniques for early diagnosis such as transcranial sonography of the brain parenchyma, smell testing, and neuropsychological testing, and has full access to the entire spectrum of diagnostic procedures provided by the Center of Neurology. For many inherited neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders, genetic testing is offered, in close collaboration with the Department of Medical Genetics.
Innovative treatment for patients with Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders include deep brain stimulation (DBS, in close collaboration with Dr. Freudenstein of the Department of Neurosurgery), but also continuous and intermittent apomorphine treatment in Parkinson's patients with severe fluctuations, or botulinum toxin treatment in patients with dystonias and spastic gait disorders.
The close collaboration of the specialized inpatient unit with the outpatient clinics provides a highly flexible and optimized patient management structure. The equally close interaction with basic research groups of the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, on the other hand, allows rapid transfer of scientific progress into clinical practice.
The "Section for Clinical Neurogenetics", established in 2004 and headed by Prof. Schöls, with its focus on ataxias and spastic paraplegias, attracts patients with these rare diseases from all over Germany.
In 2006, the basic research of the department was further strengthened by Prof. Kahle, who joined the department coming from Munich, and who will provide his expertise in the biochemistry and cell biology of neurodegeneration.