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Neurologist examines Presidential maladies

Jay Moran/WBFO

From migraine headaches to strokes to Alzheimer's Disease, U.S. Presidents have endured an array of neurological problems. Dr. Nicholas Silvestri, assistant professor of neurology at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been taking a closer look at the connection in what he calls a "hobby."

Dr. Silvestri presented some of his findings during Grand Rounds last week in an hour-long presentation called "Neurological Ailments of the Presidents."

"Throughout early life and in school my favorite subject has always been history. I've always been intrigued by it," Silvestri recalled. 

"When it came time to choose a career, I was torn between science and history, I chose science, but history has always been a major hobby."

While reading through Presidential biographies he observed the disorders attributed to many Presidents. Some suffered migraine headaches, others strokes. 

Ronald Reagan suffered with Alzheimer's Disease.

"There are some signs, perhaps, that later on in his second term that he (Reagan) was slipping a little bit, but those closest to him--- on his staff and his cabinet officers---more or less vehemently denied that he was significantly impaired during his Presidency," Silvestri explained.

Reagan, however, took a different approach to his ailment than some of his Presidential predecessors. The administrations of Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson worked to keep the problems from public view.

"Reagan actually publicly announced he had Alzheimer's Disease. He did that in 1994 after receiving the formal diagnosis because he wanted to raise public awareness about the disease."

Silvestri says his professional colleagues responded well to his presentation during last week's Grand Rounds.

"I tried to use history--these men, these people--to really illustrate what these neurological illnesses can do to these people and how they can impact history."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.