Active Projects in Translational Research
Our research strategies draw on clinical symptoms in need of new knowledge. Each strategy is matched between laboratory and clinical investigation to advance translational applications.
- Sensory sensitivity leads to agitation and irritation to light and sound in those living with brain injury. Our diffuse brain injury model shows rodents develop sensory sensitivity to somatic whisker stimulation over 1 month post-injury. This morbidity correlates with plastic changes in the whisker circuit associated with synaptogenesis and inflammation. Our research investigates interventions to mitigate these processes in rodents, while imaging brain-injured patients with light sensitivity
- Endocrine dysfunction can explain the range of metabolic and mood disorders evident in chronic brain injury survivors. Our brain-injured rodents show exacerbated endocrine levels to non-noxious stimulation and likely to other stressors, as anecdotally reported for brain injury survivors. Our research investigates avenues to alleviate or prevent endocrine dysfunction in rodents, while gathering prospective data and testing hormone replacement in Veterans
- Seizures are unregulated electrical activity in the brain that impair function. As circuits reorganize, forming hyperdensities of local synapses, seizure foci can develop. Strategies are being sought to detect and intervene on seizures in the laboratory and clinic, in order to minimize the transition to post-traumatic epilepsy
- Balance is particularly vulnerable to head injury, as evidenced by immediate instability upon injury and gait instability after injury. Balance issues go further to include vestibular dysfunction involving oculomotor function. Our research has identified a structural vulnerabilities in vestibular nuclei, which have led to screening protocols for balance and oculomotor function.
The great challenge at hand lies with mild injury, because far too often no medical advice is sought. In these cases, morbidities emerge after therapeutic windows have closed. To uncover these injury-induced morbidities, our investigative strategies challenge the injured brain to determine attenuated, exaggerated or inappropriate responses.
For example, stressors should be met with predictable endocrine surges, but physical and neurochemical damage resulting from brain injury can alter the test results and impact behavior in the real world. We are working on identifying injury-induced morbidity, determining underlying causes and targeting therapy to specific treatable populations.