Insights from a Fresco Institute Fellow

Alberto Cucca, MD in Chianti, Italy

A Q&A with Alberto Cucca, MD

As new developments in neurodegenerative disease bring new treatment options to patients, what draws neurologists to pursue a fellowship at the Fresco Institute? We talked to Alberto Cucca, MD, the first fellow of the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Clinical Fellowship for Italian Neurologists and Related Specialists, to discover how his career path connected him to NYU Langone—and what he’s learned through his Fresco Institute fellowship.

What drew you to study neurodegenerative disorders?
I was born and raised in Venice, in the Northeastern part of the Italian peninsula. As a medical student, I became deeply interested in the study of neurodegenerative diseases, with a particular focus on movement disorders. Once I became licensed to practice medicine in Europe, I began working at the Centre for Movement Disorders of the Neurological Clinic of the University of Trieste. The complexity of molecular phenomena underlying neurodegenerative processes and the central role that symptomatology still plays in their differential diagnosis have always made me think that this branch of neurology is the most fascinating of all.

How did you connect with the Fresco Institute?
In 2015, I had the amazing opportunity to come to New York and work for six months at the Fresco Institute, headed by Alessandro Di Rocco, MD—which turned out to be the most crucial point in my history as a medical student. I worked in the Fresco Institute Neurostimulation Laboratory, where, guided and trained by Milton Biagioni, MD, I researched the effects of low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on Parkinson’s disease. This experience prompted me to learn more about the causes and the clinical manifestations of movement disorders, as well as their therapeutic management.

What initial insights did you gain through the Fresco Institute?
I also wanted to learn more about the brain abnormalities connected with the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as gait and balance disorders. On this topic, I was astonished by the fascinating results achieved by the team of researchers at the Fresco Institute. It was very clear to me that this kind of experience would only have been possible in an intellectually stimulating and ethically oriented work environment like the Fresco Institute.

So, when I learned about the opportunity for young Italian neurologists to apply for a movement disorder fellowship at the Fresco Institute, I did not hesitate in applying. I knew that if I had the opportunity to work and study at the Institute—known throughout the world for its innovative research and high quality of patient care—my goal of becoming an expertly trained movement disorders specialist could be fully met.

What have you learned through your fellowship here?
This fellowship program combines both clinical and research activities in the field of movement disorders under the skilled, kind, and patient guidance of Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD. At the Fresco Institute, fellows are trained to integrate both clinical work and research in their daily activities, learning to constantly update our knowledge on the latest Parkinson’s-related studies and treatments, while interacting with patients daily in an outpatient setting. This helps us to remember what the ultimate purpose of every scientific effort should always be: improving the patient’s quality of life.

I have always been convinced that one day the fight against neurodegenerative diseases—conditions that impact individuals’ memory, emotions, and motor skills, what most prominently defines us as human beings—will be won. I have always wanted to personally contribute to finding a cure, and at the Fresco Institute, I am learning every day that a cure is more than just a dream; it can become a reality.

Alberto Cucca, MD, is the first fellow of the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Clinical Fellowship for Italian Neurologists and Related Specialists. Dr. Cucca’s principal research interests include: discovering potential biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's, studying the metabolic and nutritional abnormalities associated with the more advanced stages of Parkinson’s, and applying the technology of TMS to the treatment of the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as balance impairment and gait dysfunction.

For more information on the Fresco Institute’s Fellowship Programs, click here.

2016-10-07 16:17