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University of Kansas Seal

David Geffen School of Medicine at The University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Robert W. Baloh, M.D., Primary Investigator
Professor of Neurology
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Box 951769
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1769
rwbaloh@ucla.edu

Office: 310-825-5910
Fax: 310-206-1513

Joanna C. Jen, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Neurology
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Box 951769
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1769
jjen@ucla.edu

Office: 310-825-5910
Fax: 310-206-1513

Yoon-Hee Cha, M.D., Fellow
Clinical Instructor
Department of Neurology
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Box 951769
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1769
YHCha@mednet.ucla.edu

Office: 310-825-5759
Fax: 310-206-1513

Contact Information:

Kate Jacobson
Administrator
UCLA Dept. of Neurology
mjake@ucla.edu

Office: 310-825-5910
Fax: 310-206-1513

Main Contact:

Joanna C. Jen, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Neurology
jjen@ucla.edu

Office: 310-825-5910
Fax: 310-206-1513

Current Studies:

5302: Episodic Ataxia Syndrome: Genotype-Phenotype Correlation and Longitudinal Study

About Us:

The overall goal of the UCLA Balance Center is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with dizziness (vertigo) and imbalance (ataxia). The Balance Center combines the field of Neurology and Otology (Neurotology), focusing on the brain and ear disorders that cause vertigo and ataxia. Approximately 90 million Americans have experienced dizziness or imbalance at some time. The economic impact to society of vertigo and ataxia is unknown, but the cost of medical management has been estimated to exceed one billion dollars annually. Material costs are even greater than the costs of medical management.

Despite the importance of diseases of the balance system from a public health point of view, clinical research into balance system disorders has been relatively neglected compared with clinical research into the closely associated auditory system. There are only a few centers in the United States where clinicians are being trained to recognize and treat balance system disorders. Currently there are no criteria for clinical training in this area and there are no generally accepted guidelines for performance or interpretation of balance function testing. There is clearly a need for a strong clinical balance center in the United States.

Our strategy is to bring together a multidisciplinary research team to study patients with diseases of the balance system. Our clinical center represents an integration of the disciplines of genetics, neurology, ophthalmology, and otolaryngology. Expertise in each of these areas is critical if we are to achieve our goals. In addition, we have arranged an excellent external advisory committee to help us set and achieve our goals.

The cause and mechanism of most balance system disorders are poorly understood. Many different clinical syndromes are recognized, but the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying these disorders are only beginning to be addressed. Recent advance in genetics and molecular biology raise hopes for improved understanding of several common balance syndromes. A wide range of episodic neurological disorders result from genetic mutations in the protein channels that selectively transport molecules in and out of nerve cells (channelopathies). These transporter proteins are critical for nerve cell, excitability, which in turn determines whether the nerve cell will respond to signals from other nerve cells. Of the channelopathy syndromes, we are studying a prototypical inherited channelopathy syndrome, episodic ataxia, with the goal of understanding how different genetic mutations lead to the spectrum of clinical symptoms and signs. Understanding the physical and biochemical properties of these important channel proteins should guide efforts in developing treatment for episodic vertigo and ataxia syndromes.

Scientists at the UCLA Balance Center have for several years pioneered a clinical and basic science program supported by the National Institutes of Health. Drs. Baloh, Demer, Nelson, Jen and Ishiyama have worked together for more than 10 years. The UCLA Balance Center has produced an extensive body of publications and textbooks and has generated a successful training program that has had a significant impact in the field.

The initial collaborative efforts of our research team produced a quantitative, computerized, on-line test battery for the evaluation of balance disorders. This system has been adopted by an increasing number of medical centers in a manner similar to the establishment of audiometric test batteries several decades ago. Most of the methodology and normative data developed at UCLA were selected by a committee of the National Science Foundation when drafting a recommended standard for balance testing. Such an analytic approach to the evaluation of patients is critical if Neurotology is to be a rigorous scientific discipline.

Useful Links:

UCLA Department of Neurology Faculty

Mark Dias’ Web Site

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA