Research

Our goal is the translation of basic laboratory research discoveries into clinical treatment options for patients with neurological disorders in order to reduce symptoms, minimize side effects and enhance function and quality of life. There are three main themes of our research:

 

Pathophysiology of Parkinson’s Disease

sensorimotor circuitMillions of people in the U.S. and worldwide have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD), a progressively debilitating disorder characterized by abnormal movement. The goal of this project is to identify the specific changes in the activity of neurons in cortical and subcortical brain regions that are associated with the onset and progression of individual motor abnormalities associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). People with PD develop specific problems with movement manifested, including slowness (bradykinesia), stiffness (rigidity), and uncontrollable rhythmic movements in the extremities and face (tremor), that worsen over time.

The results of this study will provide the understanding necessary for the refinement of current and development of future therapies, e.g. deep brain stimulation and gene therapy, directed at modulating the neuronal activity in the basal ganglia thalamic circuit responsible for the development of PD motor symptoms

 

Mechanisms of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Deep Brain Stimulation DBS MechanismsFortunately, many patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease (PD) who no longer respond adequately to medications can be treated successfully with an FDA- approved implantable device that provides electrical stimulation deep within the brain, a therapy known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is being used for the treatment of a variety of movement as well as psychiatric disorders, with new applications arising at a rapid pace. While DBS therapy generally is effective for patients with PD, there is still much that is unknown about the way it works, especially under different conditions. Our goal is to obtain a better understanding of how DBS works in and between specific regions of the brain to improve movement function and to apply this knowledge to optimize DBS therapy for patients affected by movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.

 

Innovations in Neuromodulation Therapies

Closed Loop DBSDeep brain stimulation (DBS) has revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, with therapeutic benefit observed for many of its cardinal motor signs when key nodal points of the pallidothalamocortical circuit are chronically stimulated using high-frequency, isochronal electrical pulses. Almost three decades later, these stimulation parameters have largely gone unchanged despite significant advances in our understanding of the changes in underlying neural activity that accompany the development and progression of parkinsonian motor signs. We are using our findings about the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease and mechanisms of DBS in order to develop and assess new DBS strategies that may provide a more continuous and beneficial therapeutic effect than current approaches.

 

Publications

 

Funding Sources:

NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Parkinson's Disease Foundation

MnDRIVE (Minnesota Developing InnoVation Economy)

UMN Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's Disease (NIH P50)