The Cotzias Lecture and Award is named for George C. Cotzias, MD, (1918-1977), who together with colleagues, developed L-Dopa treatment, the most commonly used intervention for Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Dalmau is a world authority on autoimmune and paraneoplastic disorders affecting the nervous system, a group of immune disorders that attack the brain and spinal cord and can affect people of all ages, including infants and children. In the last 9 years Dr. Dalmau and his research group have discovered 9 of these disorders that often cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and can hamper memory, thinking skills, sensory perception, muscle movement, coordination, and bowel and bladder functions. These diseases can result in difficulty speaking and breathing and cause personality changes, mood disturbances, seizures, hallucinations, spasms, and sleep problems.
The Cotzias Lecture included a discussion of advances in these diseases particularly anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, that was first identified by Dr. Dalmau and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. In this disease, the body creates antibodies against NMDA receptors which are critical for normal brain function including controlling memory and behavior. The antibodies disrupt normal brain signaling and cause psychosis, severe memory problems, seizures, abnormal movements and other neurologic symptoms. The disease was often difficult to diagnose, but a test developed at Penn by Dr. Dalmau’s group is now available worldwide. With appropriate treatment, including immunotherapy, more than 80 percent of patients significantly improve or completely recover, although the recovery process can take months to years.
In 2015 Dr.Dalmau was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), one of the highest honors in the fields of Health and Medicine. He has published over 320 original articles in scientific journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Neurology, Cell, Journal of Neuroscience, Annals of Neurology and Neurology, and his papers are highly cited. In 2015 Dr. Dalmau was listed by Thomson Reuters as one of the most highly cited investigators in the world. He has received numerous awards, including the Developmental Clinical Oncology Career Award (American Cancer Society), Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award (McKnight Foundation), Neuroscience Research Program Award (Charles A. Dana Foundation), George W. Jacoby Award (American Neurological Association), Career Award (European Society of Neuroimmunology), Editors of Brain Award (Association of British neurologist) and Frontiers in Clinical Neuroscience Award (American Academy of Neurology). His current research is supported by two NIH institutions (NINDS and NIMH) and the Instituto Carlos III (FIS, CIBERER), the National French Institute of Health and Research and the Cellex Foundation.