Awareness Has Arrived: Two Oscars for Movies About Neurodegenerative Disease

Last night at the Oscar ceremony, two of the coveted statuettes went to depictions of Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. As expected, Julianne Moore won the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” Eddie Redmayne garnered an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “The Theory of Everything,” which chronicles physicist Stephen Hawking’s life with ALS (see trailer). And Glenn Campbell, country music’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” was nominated for an Original Song award, though that Oscar ended up going to Shawn Patterson for “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie.”

Even beyond neurodegenerative diseases, themes of mental illness ran through the Oscar lineup. The self-destruction depicted in “Wild,” which was nominated for two Oscars, was reportedly prompted by clinical depression, according to Cheryl Strayed, on whose memoir the movie is based.

In their acceptance speeches, Moore and Redmayne acknowledged the millions of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and ALS . Can this heightened awareness translate into action? A recent Senate resolution calls for a doubling of funding for AD research for fiscal year 2016.—Tom Fagan and Gabrielle Strobel

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