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32nd Annual Arthur Benton Lecture / "Creativity & The Brain" / Kenneth Heilman, MD

  • 9 Jan 2017
  • (MST)

New York Neuropsychology Group

2017 Arthur Benton Lecture

Creativity & The Brain

Kenneth M. Heilman, MD

The James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology &

 Health Psychology

University of Florida College of Medicine and GRECC-VAMC

Dr. Heilman has published groundbreaking research in brain-behavior relationships in the context of health and disease. He and his colleagues have characterized several new diseases/disorders and their treatment, including orthostatic tremor, hyperlipidemic dementia, primary progressive speech abulia, Fragile X Dementia Parkinsonism Syndrome (FXDPS), progressive oculo-orofacial-speech apraxia (POOSA), progressive affective aprosodia with prosoplegia and oneiric dementia.

Pivotal findings within his distinguished clinical research career include:

  • ·       Right hemisphere injury causes disorders of emotional communication (impaired comprehension and/or expression of emotional prosody and facial expressions)
  • ·       The parietal-frontal-cingulate reticular network is responsible for allocation of spatial attention and unilateral lesions of the frontal and parietal lobes
  • ·       The cingulate gyrus and mesencephalic reticular formation can cause unilateral neglect (unawareness of one half of space and body)
  • ·       The right hemisphere is dominant for mediating attention, and that even in the absence of weakness people with right frontal lesions may fail to use the contralateral side of their body or perform actions in contralateral hemispace (motor neglect)
  • ·       Patients with left hemisphere lesions are often impaired at performing meaningful goal oriented actions (apraxia)
  • ·       Left hemispheric parietal and frontal networks are important in programing skilled movements.

Dr. Heilman has made many other important contributions to the understanding and treatment of neurobehavioral disorders such as amnesia, aphasia, agraphia and alexia. His publication record includes 16 published books, more than 100 chapters and more than 600 journal publications. Included among these works is the text ‘Clinical Neuropsychology’, an important resource for understanding major neurobehavioral disorders associated with brain dysfunction and injury. He has received and continues to receive federal funding (NIH or VA) for the past 40 years.


Kenneth M. Heilman received his M.D. from the University of Virginia in 1963. After graduation he was a PGY 1&2 in internal medicine at Cornell University Medical Center-Bellevue Hospital (1963-65). During the Vietnam War he joined the Air Force and was Chief of Medicine at NATO Hospital, Izmir, Turkey (1965-1967). After his discharge from the service he took a neurology residency and fellowship at the Harvard Neurological Unit of Boston City (1967-1970), first with Dr. Denny-Brown and then with Dr. Norman Geschwind.  In 1970 he joined the faculty at the University of Florida Gainesville, where he was promoted to Professor in 1975. He received the James E Rooks, Jr. Endowed Professorship in 1990, and in 1998 was promoted to a Distinguished Professor. In 1977, Dr. Heilman joined the VA faculty, first as a Staff Neurologist and then became Chief of the Neurology Service between 1996 and 2009. He is currently a member of the VAMV’s GRECC. In addition to teaching students (medical and psychology), and resident physicians he is director of a Behavioral Neurology-Dementia Post-Doctoral program. This program has trained more than 80 post-doctoral fellows, the majority of who hold academic positions and several of whom are now leaders in academic neurology, neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience.

Dr. Heilman is a member of many honorary organizations such as Alpha Omega Alpha, Sigma Xi and the Dana Foundation. He has received two Research Foundation Professorships, the Clinical Research Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Florida, College of Medicine. He is a past President of the International Neuropsychology Society (INS) and the Society for Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology (SCBN) and in 2012 they give him their first Lifetime Achievement Award.  The INS gave him their “Distinguished Career Award,” SCBN gave him the “Outstanding Achievement Award” and the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) give him their “Distinguished Service Award” for his scientific and educational contributions. He was elected to be an Honorary Member of the American Neurological Association, and is a Fellow in the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). In 2009 the AAN gave him the Wartenberg Lecture Award and he presented the 2009 AAN Wartenberg Lecture.

His greatest honor, however, has been being married to Patricia, having three wonderful children (David, Nicole and Eden) and grandchildren (Brooke, Ashton, Ethan).

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