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Clinical Studies in Your Own Backyard

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Map of the U.S. indicating number of active clinical trials by state

Map of clinical trials in the U.S. as of Feb. 7, 2013
Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

NIH conducts clinical research studies for many diseases and conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergy and infectious diseases, and neurological disorders. What’s more, this work is being carried out in every state of the nation, as you can see from this interactive map showing clinical studies supported by NIH and others.

Before you start exploring this map, let’s take a moment to review the basics. A clinical study involves research using human volunteers that is intended to add to medical knowledge. One common type of clinical study, called a clinical research trial, looks at the safety and effectiveness of new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments.

If you’re interested in taking part in a clinical study, a terrific place to start is ClinicalTrials.gov, which is a service of NIH. This searchable database lists more than 139,000 federally and privately funded clinical studies in the United States, as well as around the world. For each study, the database provides information on the purpose of the research, who may participate, where the study is being conducted, and who to call or e-mail for more details. To help you in your quest, we’ve pulled together some handy search tips, along with some real-life stories from both volunteers and researchers.

Finally, please keep in mind that ClinicalTrials.gov is just a starting point. Any information that you find there should be used conjunction with advice from your doctor or another health care professional.


The Symphony Inside Your Brain

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Ever wonder what is it that makes you, you? Depending on whom you ask, there are a lot of different answers, but these days some of the world’s top neuroscientists might say: “You are your connectome.”

Grid of major pathways in human brain’s left hemisphere. Using diffusion spectrum imaging, which tracks movement of water through nerve fibers, researchers can trace groups of neurons as they cross from one region of the brain to another in living individuals. Credit: Van Wedeen, Massachusetts General/Harvard Medical School

The connectome refers to the exquisitely interconnected network of neurons (nerve cells) in your brain. Like the genome, the microbiome, and other exciting “ome” fields, the effort to map the connectome and decipher the electrical signals that zap through it to generate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors has become possible through development of powerful new tools and technologies.

For some time, neuroscientists have been able to infer loosely the main functions of certain brain regions by studying patients with head injuries, brain tumors, and neurological diseases—or by measuring levels of oxygen or glucose consumption in healthy people’s brains during particular activities. But all along it’s been rather clear that these inferences were overly simplistic.  Now, new advances in computer science, math, and imaging and data visualization are empowering us to study the human brain as an entire organ, and at a level of detail not previously imagined possible in a living person.