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Author: DENT Neurologic Institute

You talked, we listened! Phone Update

We understand that due to the amount of patients we have the privilege of taking care of that unfortunately that equates to high call volume for our patients to get through to us. In an effort to correct this issue, we have been diligently working on alternative options of communication for you!


Online Patient Portal

For all non-urgent medical communication such as prescription refills, check or cancel appointments, view testing results, or to message someone on your healthcare team we highly recommend utilizing your patient portal! Click here to enter your portal or if you don’t have an account yet, you can request it be activated there as well.


New Patient Scheduling

For anyone looking to schedule a consultation with one of our providers we now have the option to Pre-Register online so you don’t have to call! Visit our website at and click on the “Pre-Registration for New Patients” button, or click here. Once submitted, a patient experience expert will contact YOU within 1 business day to schedule. You can utilize this option at your convenience, let us call you so you don’t have to wait on hold!


Call Center Hours

Our phones will be closed from 12:30-1:15 pm beginning tomorrow, January 21st. This will allow our team to be at full productivity levels during all other times to provide better service to you and reduce your call wait time.

During this time frame, outside patients will still be able to press option 1 (716.250.2000) to schedule any diagnostic imaging testing such as MRI, CT and X-ray. We encourage patients to use the portal as stated above during this time or to pre-register if you’re a new patient.


We’re Hiring!

We are currently hiring patient experience representatives to grow our team to be able to provide better service to our community! To apply, please click here.

We want you to know that our patients are our #1 priority and providing high quality customer service is our goal. We take ownership that this has been an issue and we look forward to rectifying it.

Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo (BPPV) Case Study

Are You Experiencing Vertigo and Dizziness?
Don’t Wait Years to Get the Help You Need to Fix a Common Condition!

by Annette Pinder – Buffalo Healthy Living | Original article can be found here.

Suddenly, I was waking up dizzy every day. You know how sometimes when you’re on an elevator, and it dips suddenly, making your stomach flip? That’s what it felt like. I was moving up and down and sideways. I couldn’t get out of bed without feeling like I would fall, especially when I turned on my left side. Fortunately, I knew who to call.

Dr. Lixin Zhang is Director the Dizziness and Balance Center at Dent Neurologic Institute. His genuine concern for patients, extraordinary knowledge, and 90 percent success rate in helping patients with dizziness and balance issues makes him a hero to me. Fortunately, he made room for me in his schedule.

After reviewing my medications and possible stressors that might explain my dizziness, Dr. Zhang asked me to lie down. As he turned me to one side, the room started to flip as he exclaimed, “You really needed to come in!” He asked me to sit up, lie down, and turn a couple of times, and within seconds everything stopped. I was no longer dizzy. He said, “That’s it! It’s gone.” I was incredulous. Dr. Zhang said there is only a 15 percent chance that this will happen again, but if it does, I know where to go.

Dr. Zhang explained that what I experienced is called benign paroxysmal position vertigo (BPPV), the most common disorder of the inner ear’s vestibular system, and a vital part of maintaining balance. BPPV is benign, not life-threatening or progressive, and produces a sensation of spinning called vertigo that is both paroxysmal and positional, meaning it occurs suddenly with a change in head position.

Why does this happen? The vestibular organs in each ear include the utricle, saccule, and three semicircular canals. The semicircular canals detect rotational movement, are located at right angles to each other, and are filled with a fluid called endolymph. When the head rotates, endolymphatic fluid lags behind because of inertia, and exerts pressure against the cupula, the sensory receptor at the base of the canal. The receptor then sends impulses to the brain about the head’s movement.



Dr. Zhang says BPPV occurs because of otoconia, tiny crystals of calcium carbonate that are a normal part of the inner ear’s anatomy. When the head is still, gravity causes the otoconia to clump and settle. When the head moves, the otoconia shift, stimulating the cupula to send false signals to the brain, producing vertigo and triggering nystagmus (involuntary eye movements). I was amazed when Dr. Zhang showed me a video of the episode of BPPV that I experienced, capturing those crazy involuntary eye movements. Visit to see how Dr. Zhang was able to fix my problem in seconds!

BPPV typically occurs on one side or the other, although in some cases it can occur on both sides. Symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, imbalance, difficulty concentrating, and nausea. Activities that bring on symptoms can vary, but are precipitated by changing the head’s position with respect to gravity. Most common movements include looking up or rolling over and getting out of bed. While the condition is not life-threatening, it can be very disruptive to a person’s work and social life, and pose a hazard due to an increased risk of falls.

According to Dr. Zhang, 2.4 percent of all people will experience the disorder at some point in their lifetimes. BPPV accounts for at least 20 percent of diagnoses made by physicians, and is the cause of approximately 50 percent of dizziness in older people. The good news is there is someone in Western New York who can stop BPPV in its tracks in 90 percent of all cases. If you have been suffering from any of the above symptoms, I urge you to make an appointment immediately with Dr. Zhang to get your life back by calling 716-250-2000 or visiting Learn more about BPPV at



What is Rett Syndrome? | #OverpowerRett

Imagine the symptoms of autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy affecting one child who cannot speak. That is Rett syndrome.

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls and leads to severe impairments, affecting nearly every aspect of the child’s life: their ability to speak, walk, eat, and even breathe easily. 

The hallmark of Rett syndrome is near constant repetitive hand movements. Rett syndrome is usually recognized in children between 6 to 18 months as they begin to miss developmental milestones or lose abilities they had gained.

What causes Rett Syndrome?

The clinical features of Rett syndrome were first described in 1966 by Dr. Andreas Rett. Patients with these clinical features were subsequently given the designation of Rett syndrome in 1983 in recognition of Dr. Rett’s original report. Rett syndrome is still considered a clinical diagnosis based on specific developmental history and clinical criteria. These clinical criteria were last revised in 2010.

Rett syndrome is caused by mutations on the X chromosome on a gene called MECP2. There are more than 900 different mutations found on the MECP2 gene. Most of these mutations are found in eight different “hot spots.”

Rett syndrome is not a degenerative disorder with individuals living to middle age or beyond. It is not inherited. Rett syndrome occurs worldwide in 1 of every 10,000 female births, and is even more rare in boys. 

Rett syndrome can present with a wide range of disability, ranging from mild to severe. The course and severity of Rett syndrome is defined by the location, type, and severity of the mutation and X-inactivation.


Symptoms for Rett Syndrome may not reveal themselves from six months until 18 months after an infant is born. One day your child is healthy and happy, grasping for things as babies do. The next day you notice they are experiencing:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Cardiac Issues
  • Swallowing and digestive issues
  • Scoliosis
  • Seizures
  • Repetitive hand movements

These are just some of the symptoms of Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder primarily affecting girls. Symptoms may be more severe in boys. 

A mutated gene may be the cause of this disorder that affects all racial and ethnic groups around the world. That’s why it’s essential to know about Rett Syndrome Awareness Month in October.

Males with Rett

In 1999 it was reported that mutations in the MECP2 gene, located on the X chromosome, were associated with the clinical presentation of Rett syndrome. Since the ability to test the MECP2 gene has been available, there have been over 60 males reported with mutations in the MECP2 gene. 

A few of these males had a clinical picture consistent with the clinical criteria for Rett syndrome; however, most of these males presented with a different clinical presentation. Most males with mutations in MECP2 gene present with an earlier onset of symptoms, typically with significant problems beginning at or shortly after birth.

The determination of Rett syndrome is still based on clinical criteria and the clinical presentation. Over 95% of females with classic Rett syndrome will have a mutation in the MECP2 gene. Mutations in the MECP2 gene by themselves are not sufficient to make a diagnosis of Rett syndrome. Patients with mutations in the MECP2 gene that do not meet the clinical criteria for Rett syndrome are given the designation of MECP2-related disorders.

How can you help?

Having a loved one with Rett Syndrome can be difficult. They often have behavioral problems and extreme levels of anxiety because they can hear and understand us, but cannot respond or move well on their own. Here are ways you can help someone you know who has Rett Syndrome: 

Socialize. Kids must spend time with their peers, but when they can’t talk, it makes things difficult. Try teaching them yes and no with the direction they move their eyes, or even giving them a choice board so they can point to their answers. Taking a trip to the movie theater with friends is also a good idea because speaking will be minimal from both ends.

Be active. Again, this is something that can be hard when a child has trouble moving on their own. But, if you can help them on a short walk, go for a swim, or even ride horses, it can help with both physical and mental strength. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy together.

Keep learning and be mindful.  There is constant research happening with Rett Syndrome. Hopefully, someday, a cure or better treatment will be discovered. The more you learn and are aware of what is truly going on in your child’s mind and body, the better you can react in ways that will make them feel comfortable.

5 Things You Might Not Know About Rett Syndrome

  1. The mutation is random. One of the most frustrating things about studying the gene mutation is that it occurs with conception, and other family members may not experience it.
  2. Sufferers can outgrow it. Many live satisfying lives well past middle age and into their later years.
  3. Babies seem healthy until it appears. Unlike other kinds of disorders, Rett Syndrome babies seem entirely normal until symptoms appear between six and 18 months after a female child is born.
  4. Varied symptoms. Rett Syndrome symptoms can include scoliosis, irregular breathing during the day, and sleep disturbances at night.
  5. Love and support make a difference. People impacted by Rett Syndrome can improve immeasurably with the love, understanding, and support of their family and friends.

To learn more or donate to Rett Syndrome, visit these organizations:

World Stroke Day

If you or someone you know wants to make an appointment at the DENT Stroke Clinic, call 716-250-2000 or click here for more information.

World Stroke Day 2019 is October 29. The world stroke campaign’s goal is to raise awareness of stroke symptoms and the leading causes of strokes. 

One in four people will have a stroke in their lifetime. Most strokes are preventable with a few simple steps. Here are the top tips that help to reduce the risk of stroke.

Control high blood pressure

Half of all strokes are associated with hypertension. Knowing your blood pressure and controlling it with lifestyle changes or medication will reduce your risk of stroke.

Exercise 5 times per week

Over a third of all strokes happen to people who do not get enough exercise. 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week will reduce your stroke risk.

Eat a healthy balanced diet

Almost a quarter of all strokes are connected to poor nutrition. Eating a diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, and reducing consumption of processed food will reduce your risk of stroke. 

Reduce your cholesterol

More than 1 in 4 strokes are linked to high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Eating low saturated fats, avoiding processed food, and exercise will help to reduce your risk. If you are unable to maintain a healthy cholesterol level with lifestyle changes, your doctor may advise medication to help. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese was found in almost 1 in 5 strokes. Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) or Hip to Waist Ratio will help you reduce your risk.

Stop smoking and avoid smoky environments

Almost 1 in 10 strokes were associated with smoking. Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of stroke and the risks of people who live around you. Getting help to quit increases your chances of success.

Reduce your alcohol intake

Over 1M strokes each year were linked to excessive alcohol consumption. If you drink, keep it a limit of 1-2 units of alcohol a day. 

Identify and treat atrial fibrillation

People with AP are 5x more likely to have a stroke than the general population. If you are over 50, talk to your doctor about AF screening. If you have AF, talk about treatments that will reduce your risk. 

Manage diabetes

If you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk of stroke. Diabetes and stroke also share several risk factors, including diet and exercise. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about how to reduce your stroke risk. 

Manage stress and depression

Almost 1 in 6 strokes are linked to mental well-being. Managing stress, depression, anger, and anxiety are all critical to reducing stroke risk. 

Recognize signs FAST

F.A.S.T. is a way to recognize signs of a stroke. 

FACE (has their mouth drooped?)

ARMS (can they lift both arms?)


TIME (time is critical!)

Why choose DENT?

There are about 1.5 Million strokes in the US each year. Nearly half of these are severe, requiring immediate hospitalization and often aggressive intervention. On the other hand, approximately 750,000 strokes occur with only passing symptoms. These mild strokes or Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) are alarming, but often result in little or no deficit.

TIAs are critically vital warning signs of a potential devastating stroke. TIA symptoms must not be ignored. The Dent Mild Stroke/TIA clinic is run by experts in stroke neurology that have fine-tuned the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, resulting in a significantly reduction in the risk of a recurrent stroke. 

Learn more about our comprehensive stroke center here.

Find out more about stroke risk factors and prevention at

Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Livestream Recap with Dr. Horacio Capote, Director of the DENT Psychiatry Clinic.

Talking about Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is very important. A million people a year died by suicide. 

“There are a lot of myths to discuss and a lot of questions that you may have, so hopefully we will be able to cover a lot of these topics,” says Dr. Capote.

Myth: you can make someone suicidal by bringing up the topic

“This is completely false,” stats Dr. Capote. “In fact, many people are eager to discuss it, share it, and have an outlet.”

If you have suspicion that someone might have suicidal thoughts, it does not hurt to ask. You’re not going to do anybody any harm by asking. Instead, it shows that you are empathetic and that you care.

Myth: there is nothing you can do

“The data shows us that everyone is completely conflicted about suicide, all the way to the end,” explains Dr. Capote.

There are many places to intervene, and several things you can do. The first thing is to have curiosity to reach out and be willing to be part of the solution.

Recognize the warning signs:

Someone might show warning signs for suicide if they:

  • Suddenly are obsessed about death (talking about it, writing about it, etc.)
  • Have a change in personality
  • Have a change in behavior

“These are signs that something is going on that is worth identifying, and there are more major signs of trouble,” says Dr. Capote. 

These significant signs of trouble are:

  • A family history of suicide
  • If that individual has attempted suicide before
  • If that individual has a mental illness

“People with schizophrenia and many other mental illnesses have a much higher risk for suicide compared to the general population,” explains Dr. Capote. 

Treatment Options

“Sometimes, we tend to get a little pessimistic about treatment,” says Dr. Capote.

It is important to note that there are many many types of treatment, not just medication treatment. There are many forms of psychotherapy (psychodynamic psychotherapy, supportive psychotherapy), cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and lifestyle management.

Lifestyle management include how you eat and exercise. Active people feel engaged and empowered. The Meditteranean diet is good for the brain. 

“The Meditteranean diet is probably just a fancy way of saying ‘eat colorful foods,'” Dr. Capote jokes. “If it is colorful, not bleached, and not processed, you know it has a lot of antioxidants that are helpful and protect your brain.”

Why choose DENT Neurologic Institute

There are a variety of treatments, and DENT Neurologic Institute, fortunately, has all of them available. 

“To my knowledge, DENT is perhaps one of the few places that may offer these various treatments in one location,” says Dr. Capote. “We are the only free-standing outpatient institute in the country that offers electroconvulsive therapy.”

If you or someone you know wants to become a patient at DENT, call us at 716-250-2000. Click here to learn more about our Psychiatry Center. 

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Spasticity Clinic Livestream Recap

On September 13th, we went Live ith Dr. Bennett Myers, Co-Director of DENT’s new Spasticity Clinic. Spasticity is, unfortunately, a prevalent problem that we see at DENT Neurologic Institute.

What is Spasticity?

In its broadest terms, spasticity refers to abnormal muscle contraction that is produced by an injury to the brain and spinal cord. Often, it can be confused with muscle spasm. 

All of us have had muscle spasms in our neck, back, or arms. Muscle spasm also refers to a kind of abnormal muscle contraction. It is fundamentally different than spasticity. 

The difference is not always evident to most people. 

“Neurologists who are skilled in diagnosis and assessing patients can usually pick [the differences] up quite readily,” explains Dr. Myers. “There needs to be some sort of injury to the brain or spinal cord to produce spasticity.”

Most Common Causes + Diagnosis

The most common causes of spasticity that we often see are diseases of the central nervous system, like Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, or brain tumors. Spasticity is not a disease in itself; it’s more of a symptom of a lot of different types of conditions.

Most patients who show up to the Spasticity Clinic already have a diagnosis for whatever is wrong with their central nervous system that is reducing the spasticity.

“Since most patients who come to the clinic already have a diagnosis, our focus at the DENT Spasticity Clinic is focusing on management of the spasticity,” explains Dr. Myers. 

Why do you need to manage spasticity? 

Not all spasticity needs management. 

“Some patients will have some weakness in their legs,” explains Dr. Myers, “and the spasticity is helpful to them. It helps keep them upright and enables them to walk.”

If you over treat the spasticity, you can take someone who can walk and treat the spasticity, and now their legs are weaker, and they are unable to walk. 

“We always have to be very clear as to what we are trying to accomplish when treating the spasticity,” says Dr. Myers. When treating someone with spasticity, the specialists at DENT first identify what the cause is. Next, they figure out if the spasticity is causing problems for the patient and what those problems are. 


What is the goal of treatment?

Spasticity can be quite painful. Relieving pain for patients could be a goal of treatment. Sometimes, spasticity is not helpful, and it can interfere, which is more common in the arms and the hands. 

“For example, people [who] have had strokes. Maybe they are not paralyzed. There is a weakness, but they have some movement. The muscles become very spastic from the injuries to the brain, and the spasticity interferes with function,” says Dr. Myers. “So, our goal of treatment in that individual may be to improve function.”

Those who have more severe spasticity, it is not only painful, but it can be hard for them to care for themselves. “If a patient has severe spasticity of their arm, so their arm is curled up very tight, you can imagine it is hard t get a shirt on and off,” says Dr. Myers. “A goal of treatment for that individual may be to relieve the spasticity to make it easier for the patient to get dressed.”

What is a contraction or contracture?

We often treat spasticity to prevent contracture formation, which is scarring at the joints. 

“An example of this is if I took my arm, put it in a sling, and leave it there for three months. Later, if I took the sling off, I might not be able to move my arm at all,” says Dr. Myers. “Why is that? Neurologically I am fine, but the problem here is that the joints have stiffened up so severely and scarred down that now they do not move anymore.”

Someone who has had the issue after any type of injury to the brain or spinal cord will eventually have their joints tighten up and scar. The mentioned injury can be a painful situation. Often, preventing contracture formation is a goal when treating spasticity.

Steps take to diminish spasticity 

We don’t treat spasticity for the sake of it. We want to relieve pain, improve function, prevent contracture formation, and make our patients’ lives better in some way.

The treatment plan depends on how much of the body is involved and how bad the spasticity is. 

“Let’s take someone who has mild to moderate degree of spasticity, for example. The first thing we try is physical therapy, occupational therapy, stretching, and regular exercise,” Dr. Myers explains. “We will see if we can get an adequate handle on the spasticity without resorting to any medication.”

The treatment suggestions mentioned by Dr. Myers do not have any side effects. Our first form of treatment is trying to manage spasticity without an invasive or medication approach. “When we can be successful in that rate, usually everybody is quite happy,” says Dr. Myers.

“Often, that is not enough, and we need to be more interventional,” Dr. Myers adds in.

Interventional Treatments

The next step will often be medication. There are several medications that we commonly use that relieve spasticity. These usually work best in people where the spasticity is relatively widespread, or is severe. 

Most medicines that help with spasticity have the same side effect: sleepiness. 

“If I am making them semi-comatose where they’re sleeping 20 hours as a side effect, I am not doing them any favors,” says Dr. Myers. “That is often our limitation to using medication. If it is a high enough dose, I can relieve an awful lot of spasticity. However, if someone is sleeping all the time, then I haven’t improved their quality of life, which is the whole goal of why I am treating the spasticity.”

Why choose DENT?

The DENT Neurologic Institute is among the largest, most comprehensive neurology practices in the United States. We are focused on providing superior clinical care, advanced diagnostic services, clinical research, and education.

The breadth and scope of our clinical expertise has allowed the creation of our specialty clinics. Every clinic has the same mission: to provide a disease-specific approach to treatment. This unique and integrated model has strengthened our standards of care, quality measurement, outcomes, and participation in clinical research.

To make an appointment, please call 716-250-2000. More information about our new Spasticity Clinic will be released soon. 

Reasons to see a Spine Specialist | DENT Spine Center

Spine Specialist in Buffalo, NY | Neck pain and back pain can range from being an irritation to being debilitating. No matter the pain level or the injuries and conditions you may have, the DENT Spine Center has more treatment options now than ever before. 

Dr. Thomas Pfiffner, DENT’s Spine Specialist, can diagnose the cause of your pain and counsel a wide range of remedies. Dr. Pfiffner brings over 20 years of experience as a chiropractor to DENT.

In this blog post, we will highlight why you should consider seeing our Spine Specialist.


#1 – Team Access

Our team specializes in spine disorders, neuroradiology, chronic pain management, physiatry, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. On top of that, the DENT Spine Center, UB Neuro and Buffalo Rehab group are all conveniently located in one spot. 


#2 – Non-surgical Treatment

Every back and neck pain patient is unique, and our team can help determine a diagnosis outside of surgery. Surgery may seem like the obvious and only option if your neck and back pain is severe enough. However, a spine specialist can ease your neck pain or back pain in non-surgical manners. 


#3 – Are You Suffering From Debilitating Pain?

It might be time to call a Spine Specialist if your neck and spine problems are causing you to miss work or day-to-day activities. Signs or symptoms to see a Spine Specialist may include back or neck pain that :

  • Does not get better, or worsens
  • Produces numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Makes fine motor skills and/or general movement hard

Having one or more of these conditions that affect your activities can sometimes make you feel hopeless. The DENT Spine Center is focused on getting the right treatment plan for you.


#4 – Learning about the cause

What is really causing the problem? Are there any changes I can make to improve the pain? What treatment options will lead to normalcy? A spine specialist can answer all of these questions, plus more.


Why choose DENT?

Specializing in the brain and spine, patient-centered care is our primary focus at the DENT Spine Center. With on-site collaboration between DENT, Buffalo Rehab, Bennett Rehab and University at Buffalo Neurosurgery, we provide unparalleled coordination and expertise to manage the most complex spine conditions. Our full-service imaging with onsite neuroimaging and general radiology experts are from DENT and Western New York Imaging. 

DENT provides ongoing research and development on the region’s most sophisticated MRI. This brings state of the art diagnostic capabilities to our patients, while simultaneously delivering an experience that elevates patient comfort.


Expanded Imaging Services

DENT has recently expanded our Imaging Services at the new Spine Center on George Karl Boulevard, near Wehrle and Transit. In addition to MRI and Ultrasound services, DENT is seeing the return of CT, and is venturing in X-Ray for the first time.

X-rays are available for pediatric and adult patients.

CT will be available from newborns to adults. Our new scanner has software to limit radiation exposure to our pediatric patients.




Our Spine Specialist and team is ready and excited to take care of you. To learn more, click here or call 716-250-2000 to make an appointment – help is one phone call away.

DENT congratulates Dr. Zhang on a successful ten years as Director of the DENT Dizziness, Balance and Tinnitus Center

In 2009, Dr. Zhang became the Director of the DENT Dizziness, Balance and Tinnitus Center. This week, Dr. Zhang celebrates 10 years in this role. Dr. Zhang has 12 years of extensive neuroscience research experience with almost 30 peer-reviewed publications in various neuroscience journals.

As one of the principal investigators, Dr. Zhang has been involved in multiple national clinical research projects in the areas of Restless Leg Syndrome, Neuropathic Pain, and Epilepsy. Currently, he is developing new research projects focusing on Meniere’s Disease, migraine-associated vertigo and imbalance/falls in elderly patients.

His patient focus is on balance disorders, dizziness/vertigo, sleep medicine and epilepsy as well as general neurology.

Dr. Zhang can provide comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment all in one location. The treatment is mainly the combination of non-sedative dizziness preventive medications and vestibular therapy. The DENT Dizziness, Balance and Tinnitus Center offers Computerized Dynamic Posturography, a state-of-the-art technology, developed for NASA astronauts, to evaluate patients with unexplained falls or imbalanced conditions. This technology can also provide objective data to assess the ability for someone to return to a normal lifestyle following a sports concussion or work-related injury.  

Before the center opening, The Cleveland Clinic was one of the closest places Western New Yorkers would travel to for treatment.

Call 716-250-2000 to make an appointment and click here for more information on the Dizziness, Balance and Tinnitus Center.



Facebook Live Recap: Alzheimer’s Association International Conference Highlights

On Tuesday, August 27th we went live with Sarah Harlock, Program Director of the DENT Integrative Center for Memory, as she discussed Alzheimer’s Association International Conference Highlights. At this conference, researchers from all around the world came together to share information. A lot of the conference focused on lifestyle, which will be what Sarah focused on. 


The Finger Studies


A program in Finland conducted a 2-year study and looked at lifestyle factors. This was the first randomized control trial that proved that these lifestyle factors can prevent cognitive decline. This study was so successful that the “Worldwide Finger Study” has been initiated, where about 10 countries have signed up to replicate The Finger Study in their own country. 


The Pointer Study

In the United States, The Pointer Study will be starting soon. This two-year study will be operating out of specific universities in California, North Carolina, Texas, and Illinois.

“I am not sure if they have started recruiting yet. If they haven’t, they will be shortly,” said Sarah Harlock. “I am looking forward to hear more from The Pointer Study. I think we are going to see some really interesting data come out of that.”


Modifiable Risk Factors

At the conference, there were plenty of researchers that touched upon Modifiable Risk Factors. These are things that we can change, as opposed to Genes, which we cannot change. “These are modifiable, meaning we can control some of this,” explains Harlock. 

These Modifiable Risk Factors include: smoking, depression, physical activity, social stimulation/social isolation, diabetes, and diet. All of these factors are things that we have some sort of control over. They also have a big impact on the risk of developing cognitive impairment. It is really important to address these factors to reduce our risk. 


Same study, different results

A challenging part of research is that one week you can see an article that sounds great and has very positive results, and then a week later see a report that says the exact opposite. At the conference, that exact situation happened. 

Two studies contradicted each other. Study #1 showed that the genetic high-risk group, meaning they have a genetic factor that increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, were able to reduce their risk of developing cognitive decline using the mentioned lifestyle elements. Study #2 shows that lifestyle factors did not change the risk of cognitive decline in the high-risk genetic group. 


Why are there differences? How can there be conflicting results? 

“It turns out that between these two studies, the ages they were looking at were different, the way they defined genetic risk was different, the way the measured cognitive impairment was different – they were not using the same assessment tools, and the length of time that they were following the subjects was different too – by several years,” Sarah Harlock explains. 

It can be hard to determine what is accurate and what to follow as these studies come in. There is a lot of research going on right now, and at DENT Neurologic Institute, we will report the most accurate information possible.

These Modifiable Risk Factors may not be news to everyone. We have known for a while that smoking is not good for you. It is not good for your heart, and whatever is not good for your heart is not good for your head. 


Physical Exercise

The amount of studies done on exercise is tremendous. One study presented at the conference was called the “Intense Physical Activity And Cognition Study”. This study found that intense exercise is more beneficial to you that moderate to light exercise.

“I am just going to say that any exercise is better than no exercise,” says Harlock, “but what this study showed is that having an exercise that was more intense and got your heart rate up, had a more protective effect than those who did light exercise.”

Another study that was talked about was the “Fitness for the Aging Brain” study. In this study, participants were put through an exercise program, and then they measured their cognition at 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months. The results showed a positive effect on their cognition. 

“What was interesting was that they tried to follow up with people 10 years later,” says Harlock. “They were not able to reach everyone in that study, but they were able to reach some. When they looked at the data, they did not see so much a cognitive benefit. Instead, they saw a benefit through the reduction of falls.”

Those who were participating in the exercise program were falling at a much lower rate than the non-exercise group. Benefits beyond cognition can be contributed to exercise. 



Every country and region has different access to food. Because of that, no specific diet was identified to be the solution. Basically, the studies have suggested a healthy diet.

“I always tell people that if you have any questions about what a healthy diet is, contact your insurance company and ask for information,” says Harlock. “You can also talk to your primary care doctor. It is individualized based on your own unique needs and any conditions you might have.”

No “superfood” was brought to the spotlight either. There was a huge emphasis on a healthy diet. If you are someone who needs assistance, you can also get a referral to a dietitian from your primary care doctor or your health insurance company. 



Short-term memory

Sleep was another hot topic at the conference, as it is very important to memory and cognition. There are specific brain wave activities that occur in your sleep that help the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory. 

“These brainwave activities that happen during sleep encode information that is gained during the day,” Sarah Harlock explains. “So, if there is disruption in your sleep, there’s an opportunity for the process of encoding, remembering or storing this information to be disrupted. Again, sleep just becomes critical.”

There is that older generations do not need as much sleep – and that is simply not true. Studies are showing that people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to avoid the amyloid deposit or amyloid buildup in the brain, which is common in Alzheimer’s. 

Getting enough sleep is imperative, and insomnia is certainly an issue that can negatively impact your cognitive health. Recently, research has determined that insomnia can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Menopausal women are at a higher risk of insomnia than men of the same age. Researchers are identifying this as a possible reason that more women are developing Alzheimer’s than men.

Sleep Apnea is another issue that increases the risk of not only Alzheimer’s, but cardiovascular issues too.

“Again, it is really important that you are paying attention to your sleep,” emphasizes Harlock. “Trying not to nap during the day, watching your caffeine intake, and reducing screen time right before bed are all things that can certainly help with your sleep hygiene.”

It could be possible that a sleep test is needed. The DENT Sleep Center has a fully equipped diagnostic laboratory, including six private suites where patients sleep while being monitored by trained technicians.


Social Stimulation

This is another key component that is part of the Finger Study, and part of the modifiable risk factors. For the mental stimulation aspect, they talked about formal education. Beyond formal education, there is lifelong learning that we can be doing that will help assist us with building up brain reserves. This goes beyond watching TV.

“You need to be doing more for your brain,” says Harlock. “Find activities that are enjoyable, challenge your brain, and make you think about things in a new way.”

As people age, it is not uncommon to see them become more isolated. They may have mobility issues that stop them from doing social activities or going to the gym. They might also no longer have their driving privileges and can no longer enjoy the things they use to. 


Combining the Modifiable Risk Factors

Not everything has to happen in isolation. Our social activities can happen at an exercise program, our exercise can happen while as we’re walking to the library or our mental stimulation, we can eat a healthy meal while with friends. Combining these lifestyle choices so you don’t think about setting up a whole new plan for getting through your day will help make sure you tackle all of these elements. 


5 Key Points

Key Point 1 – Modifiable Risk Factors can counteract genetic risk for Alzheimer’s

Making adjustments to your lifestyle to support at least 4 of these Modifiable Risk Factors can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%, as opposed to those who do not make any efforts, or only do one of them. 

“This is exciting,” Harlock says, “and very, very important to adhere to the healthy lifestyle as it may counteract the genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of people say that Alzheimer’s is in their genes, and there is nothing they can do about it. The reality is, there is something they can do about it.”

Key Point 2 – Cognitive Stimulation can counteract some negative things, like air pollution

These studies are showing that we may be able to reduce our risk of having a higher cognitive reserve built through formal education and cognitive stimulation. This benefits the aging brain by reducing the risk of dementia among people who were exposed to high levels of air pollution.

“That was a really interesting study that came out as well,” says Harlock, “So this idea of brain reserve and cognitive stimulation and so on can counteract some of the negative things – like air pollution.”

Key Point 3 – Early Adult to Midlife smoking can be associated with cognitive impairment 

The conference confirmed that early adult to midlife smoking can be associated with cognitive impairment, as early as when people are in their 40’s.

“So, once again it’s one of those things that if you are smoking, talk to your doctor about this. We do know that it’s one of those modifiable risk factors,” explains Sarah Harlock.

Key Point 4 – Drinking too much can increase the risk of dementia

Alcohol use disorder can significantly increase the risk of dementia in older women. Studies in the past have discussed diets that promote a small or moderate amount of alcohol as safe or beneficial to the brain. A study presented at the conference presented that too much alcohol increases the risk of dementia in women later in life.

“Alcohol is something that needs to be moderated and make sure that you are using safe levels,” says Harlock.

Key Point 5 – We must be looking at the condition much earlier than they are now

Rather than waiting for signs of memory loss, language problems, or cognitive issues, we need to be looking at and adjusting our lifestyle choices much, much earlier than we are now. 


Never too early or too late

There was a study called My Brain Robbie that was aimed at school-aged children and them adapting to a healthy lifestyle. The children ended up taking the information home to their parents, which helped the parents make healthier choices as well. 

“You are never too young to start these healthy brain habits,” says Harlock. “But, it is also important to note that is it never too late to start them, either.”

Making these healthy choices can not just lower your risk of developing these conditions, but it may slow down cognitive loss. Click here if you or someone you know is interested in DENT’s Memory Center.

DENT Neurologic Institute is officially recognized as a Partner in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Care

Buffalo—DENT Neurologic Institute, a leading provider of care for people living with MS in Buffalo has been officially recognized as a Partner in MS Care, Center for Comprehensive MS Care through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Partners in MS Care program. This formal recognition honors DENT Neurologic Institute’s commitment to providing exceptional, coordinated MS care; and a continuing partnership with the Society to address the challenges of people affected by MS.

Buffalo, NY is considered a world hot spot for the prevalence of patients diagnosed with MS.

The Society’s Partners in MS Care program recognizes committed providers, like DENT, whose practices support the Society’s initiative of affordable access to high quality MS healthcare for everyone living with MS – regardless of geography, disease progression, and other disparities.

DENT Neurologic Institute is the only recipient of this specific award in Upstate New York. DENT has been designated as the only Comprehensive Care Center in our region.

Partners in MS Care – Centers for Comprehensive Care are led by clinicians with demonstrated knowledge and experience in treating MS; offer and coordinate a full array of medical, nursing, mental health, rehabilitation and social services and have a strong collaborative relationship with the National MS Society. We have shown our level of dedication to the patients in our community by being one of the first centers in the country to offer new, novel therapies to the patients in our community. DENT is often a chosen site to participate in MS research opportunities. Our staff are also recognized nationally for the expertise on MS and the understanding of what it takes to run such an integrated practice.

“We are so proud to partner with DENT Neurologic Institute to enhance coordinated, comprehensive care for the people who live with MS in Buffalo,” said Stephani Kunes, of the National MS Society, Upstate New York. “In earning this recognition, DENT has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in MS care, making a tremendous impact on people affected by MS in our community,” Stephanie Kunes continued.


For more information, please visit or call 1-800-344-4867.