Distinguished Teaching Professor, Ph.D.
Main Office: SEA 5th Floor Seay
Phone: (512) 471-3827
Alternate Office: ARC 0.238
Alt. Phone: (512) 471-6141
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin ,Texas 78712
Research SummaryThe brain and spinal cord are vulnerable to traumatic injury, stroke, tumors and degenerative diseases, often with devastating functional impairments, but at no time in the history of medicine have scientists been as optimistic as they are now about treatment strategies. Understanding how the central nervous system responds to the loss of nerve cells, and how behavior can influence the mechanisms of brain repair, is a major focus of our research.
We develop rat and mouse models of neurological disorders and strive to improve upon existing models. We have a multidisciplinary approach, with extensive collaborative arrangements with experts in other labs on campus, nationally and internationally. Collaborative research projects include searching for novel treatment interventions.
In Parkinsonï¿½s disease dopamine cells degenerate, eventually leading to severe impairments of movement. Using a new model of slow degeneration, we have investigated gene therapy, drugs and motor enrichment techniques that increase growth factors in the brain. These growth factors appear to keep the dopamine cells from dying, thereby preventing the behavioral dysfunction.
Whereas skilled motor activity protects neurons, behavioral inactivity is detrimental. In cerebral stroke, Parkinsonï¿½s disease, and other models of brain injury, physical activity and inactivity hasve only recently been recognized as highly influential. Behavior is often essential for cellular changes, synapse formation and neurogenesis. We look for sensitive periods after brain damage that provide unique opportunities to intervene beneficially.