Faculty within the department, as well as across the university, are engaged in biomedical research to uncover the etiology of nervous system disorders and to move these discoveries forward in the direction of future therapeutics.
Multiple laboratories have made significant discoveries in the field of addictive disorders, anxiety, signal transduction, and neurodegeneration. There are groups interested in synaptic plasticity as it relates to adult and developmental disorders of cognition and learning as well as syndromes of epilepsy where plasticity has gone awry. These studies rely on sophisticated in vivo electrophysiology using high-density electrode headstages in behaving animals, as well as advanced technologies in genomics and proteomics to identify molecular signatures that underlie the activation of disease-specific signal transduction pathways.
Major insight has come from studies investigating the brain reward system and the long-term effects of alcohol and drugs of abuse on behavior and neuroplasticity, as well as from the provocative finding that compulsive eating and obesity may share the same neurobiological changes observed in drug addiction. Using model culture systems that express mutant proteins containing human mutations present in Parkinson’s disease patients, our faculty have uncovered essential features of the role that these mutations may play in the etiology of the disease and have contributed greatly to our understanding of natural aging, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.