Faculty members and staff in the Department of Neurology at the University of Wisconsin are conducting basic and clinical research programs within the neurosciences.The department is committed to the translation of basic research findings to the clinical domain and actively encourages and facilitates interactions and collaborations between clinicians and basic scientists both within the department and in other departments and
Research activities are funded by government, foundation, private donor and industry sponsors. Research programs are an integral part of the department’s mission and play a central role in its activities. Basic science research is focused in computational neuroscience physical theory, epileptogenesis, neuropsychology, plasticity, biology of neural stem cells and embryonic stem cells and neural differentiation.
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Melanie Boly, M.D., Ph.D.
My research aims at combining neuroimaging techniques such as PET, functional MRI, TMS-EEG, and high-density EEG to a theoretical framework, the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness, hoping to uncover the neural mechanisms of the level and contents of consciousness in healthy subjects and neurological patients. I am board certified in neurology in both Europe and the US.
Corrina Burger, Ph.D.
Qiang Chang, Ph.D.
Bolanle Famakin, M.D.
Innate immune activation during acute and chronic focal cerebral ischemia:
The Famakin Lab is investigating the innate immune response to acute and chronic focal cerebral ischemia. Specifically, we are interested in identifying the temporal and cellular specificity of innate immune pathways activated during the acute and chronic phases of focal cerebral ischemia. We use the Middle Cerebral Artery occlusion model, in rodents, as a model of experimental focal cerebral ischemia. We also use in vitro models of cerebral ischemia to confirm the involvement, and identify key control points, in important pathways activated during acute and chronic focal cerebral ischemia. We are also interested in the role of the innate immune response in modulating repair and recovery during chronic stroke. Some of the other tools we employ in our research include fluorescent imaging and various molecular biology techniques. The goal of these studies is to obtain foundational knowledge needed to develop novel therapeutic targets, or re-purpose old drugs, that can ameliorate damaging inflammation during the acute phase and potentiate repair during the chronic reparative phase of stroke
Catherine Gallagher, M.D.
Dr. Gallagher’s research aims to develop new neuroimaging biomarkers for the pathology and progression of Parkinson’s disease. In particular, the lab is interested in how disease-related changes in brain connectivity affect cognition in Parkinson’s disease. Currently we are recruiting Parkinson’s and control subjects to participate in a longitudinal MRI study, and are preparing to analyze novel image sequences from the first time point. Data analyses will include looking for associations between standardized cognitive and motor evaluations and brain imaging parameters such as functional and structural connectivity, volumetric studies, and quantification of white matter hyperintensity volume.
David Hsu, M.D., Ph.D.
Brain function must manifest in the spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity. What’s the secret? How can we crack the code? We discuss two properties of brain systems that may be key: the recent finding that neocortical slice cultures show what is called critical homeostasis, and the very old and well known finding that the intact brain shows oscillations. Critical homeostasis addresses the spatial connectivity-related aspects of these patterns, while oscillations address the temporal patterns. Disorders of critical homeostasis and abnormal oscillations may result in neurological disorders including epilepsy, mental retardation and movement disorders.
Zhen Huang, Ph.D.
The cerebral cortex is the site of higher cognitive function in the brain. Its function depends critically on the intricate organization at several levels within the cortex. This ranges from the global organization of neuronal cell bodies in the cortex (e.g., the formation of cortical layers), to the elaboration of distinct dendritic patterns by various types of neurons, and eventually to the formation of specific synaptic connections among the different types of neurons. My lab is interested in several aspects of the development of the cerebral cortex. We are particularly interested in how these different levels of organization in the cerebral cortex arise during normal development and how they are affected in and contribute to human diseases. We are using several approaches including mouse genetics and in vitro tissue culture to address these questions.
Hrissanthi “Chris” Ikonomidou, M.D., Ph.D.
The goal of my research is to understand how the developing brain reacts to various insults and find ways to protect it. The knowledge gained may help optimize therapeutic interventions in infants born prematurely, infants and children with brain injuries, seizures, neurodevelopmental disorders or cancer.
Robert Kotloski, M.D., Ph.D.
My laboratory studies the neurophysiologic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms underlying development of epilepsy (epileptogenesis) in an animal model, with a goal of identifying biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Current efforts are focused on the development of epilepsy following a traumatic brain injury (post-traumatic epileptogenesis).
Christopher Luzzio, M.D.
Rama Maganti, M.D.
Aaron Struck, M.D.
Molecular Imaging in Epilepsy:
In collaboration with the Department of Medical Physics and Radiology we use novel radiotracers and PET imaging to explore the underlying causes of epilepsy with the goal of developing new avenues for treatment. Studies underway include agents targeting tau and inflammation.
Continuous EEG in Patients with Critical Illness:
We are finding ways to optimize the care of patients with critical neurologic illness through the better use and interpretation of continuous EEG monitoring.
Automated Natural Language Interpretation of EEG:
We seek methods to expand the application and reliability of EEG using machine learning techniques to automate several aspects of EEG interpretation.
Thomas Sutula, M.D., Ph.D.
Marcelo Vargas, Ph.D.
The long-term goal of my research program is to develop new therapeutic strategies using mechanistic insights drawn from understanding astrocyte-motor neuron interaction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). While the degeneration of motor neurons is the characteristic feature of ALS, astrocytes play a key role determining motor neuron fate in the course of the disease. Astrocytes from diverse ALS models induce motor neuron death in co-culture models and several strategies aimed at reverting astrocyte-mediated toxicity increase motor neuron survival and improve motor performance in ALS mouse models. Our goal is to better understand astrocyte biology and define the therapeutic value of modulating mitochondrial function, antioxidant defenses and astrocyte-neuron metabolic coupling in the context of ALS.
Cara Westmark, Ph.D.
Dr. Westmark’s basic and translational science research in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and fragile X syndrome focuses on the synaptic function of amyloid beta protein precursor (APP) and amyloid-beta. The goal is to identify therapeutic and dietary approaches that reduce amyloid-beta and rescue seizure, behavioral, cognitive and biomarker phenotypes.