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Justin S. Sipla, PhD

Associate of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Associate of Neurology

Contact Information

Primary Office
1-400-A BSB
Iowa City, IA 52242


BA, Anthropology, University of California
MS, Basic Health Sciences, Stony Brook University
PhD, Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University

Research Summary

My research focuses on the evolution of the semicircular canals in birds, nonavian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and bats, using computed tomography and other medical imaging techniques to assess functional morphology. The size, shape, and planar orientation of the canals show attunements to preferred planes of movement, and correlate strongly with degree of locomotor maneuverability. This provides unique insight into the pattern of neurosensory adaptation associated with adoption of volant behaviors among primitive fliers, compared with non-volant antecedents and secondarily flightless species. Collaborative work on nonavian dinosaurs is helping to differentiate bipedality from quadrupedality at the neural level. Recently, I have begun working with colleagues in Psychiatry and Neurology to develop and optimize techniques for ex vivo neuroimaging using ultra-high field 7T MRI. I’m interested in extracting diffusion-weighted images from chemically fixed tissue, for the purpose of conducting tractographic analyses of neural systems in the human brain. This project aims to bridge gaps between human neuroimaging and histological research, setting the stage for future research development of in vivo markers of histological diagnoses of neuropathology (e.g., identifying aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). In another project, I am working with colleagues in Neurology to develop a human cadaveric perfusion model for surgical training, testing new devices, and to develop neurointerventional techniques for catheter-based procedures.