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Tallahassee Family Gives $1 Million to FSU Center for Brain Repair for Dystonia Research

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CONTACT: Ron Hartung
(850) 645-9205;

By Ron Hartung
April 2013


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State University’s Center for Brain Repair has received a major financial gift from Tallahassee parents who know all too well how research can lead to medical relief.

Erwin and Stefanie Jackson’s gift of $1 million will establish a fund to support The Brian Jackson Dystonia Research and Discovery Program at the Center for Brain Repair, which is part of FSU’s College of Medicine. The program is named for their son, who at age 15 was diagnosed with generalized dystonia. The movement disorder causes involuntary muscle contractions, and Brian Jackson’s symptoms got so severe that he spent eight months in a wheelchair. Eventually, doctors implanted electrodes in his brain to tame the contractions.

“We don’t want anyone else’s child to go through what our son did,” said Erwin Jackson, a psychologist and businessman. “If this donation can give researchers the momentum they need to find a cure for dystonia, it will be the best money we ever spent.”

The Jackson family’s gift is part of their continuing effort to increase public awareness of this debilitating neurological disorder. As part of that effort, they and the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Foundation organize an annual Valentine’s Day fundraiser for dystonia research to benefit the Brian Jackson dystonia program.

"This is exactly the kind of opportunity the College of Medicine is always looking for,” Dean John P. Fogarty said. “It's a chance to move promising research from the lab to the community, where it can make a real difference in how people live their lives. We're grateful for this generous partnership with the Jackson family."

Professor Pradeep Bhide directs the Center for Brain Repair in the College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences. He left the Harvard Medical School faculty in 2011 to become the inaugural occupant of the Jim and Betty Ann Rodgers Eminent Scholar Chair in Developmental Neurosciences at Florida State. Last year, he happened to meet the Jacksons — and learned of their personal connection with a disorder that he has studied most of his career.

“Most other families in this situation likely would rest and rejoice in their hard-fought victory over dystonia,” Bhide said. “However, Erwin and Stefanie are working harder than ever on behalf of everyone else who is afflicted with this dreadful condition. Their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm inspire us, motivate us and keep our spirits high as we do our part in the laboratory and the clinic.”