• Ted Abel, PhD

    Director - Iowa Neuroscience Institute

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Psychiatry, Biochemistry, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The primary focus of research in the Abel lab is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of long-term memory storage with a focus on the mammalian hippocampus. One of the hallmarks of long-term memory storage is that it requires the synthesis of new genes and new proteins, which act to alter the strength of synaptic connections within appropriate neuronal circuits in the brain. How are the various signals acting on a neuron integrated to give rise to appropriate changes in gene expression? How are changes in gene expression maintained to sustain memories for days, months and even years? What role does sleep play in memory storage? How is hippocampal function altered in mouse models of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders?

  • Christopher A. Ahern, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

    The Ahern lab uses chemical biology to study the ion channel proteins that support human motion, thought and the perception of our environment.  Inherited or acquired defects in ion channels cause a myriad of human diseases - such as epilepsy, pain syndromes, cognitive disabilities and muscle disorders - making them high value targets for therapeutic development.  We currently employ atomic scale analysis of ion channels through the synthesis and encoding of tailor-made amino acids with new functionalities, thus keeping pace with ongoing structural and computational breakthroughs.  We are currently focused on understanding how sodium channels are trafficking and composed in neuronal tissues, the basis for voltage-dependent gating, and elucidating the mechanisms of new therapeutics for pain management – with an eye adapting our chemical approaches to complex cell types and model systems. 

  • Zahra Aminzare, PhD


    Dr. Aminzare is interested in employing and developing mathematical models,  dynamical systems techniques, and numerical simulations to better understand the collective behavior of coupled cell networks. The main goal of this research is to study the effect of the intrinsic dynamics of network elements and their coupling interactions on the emergence of various patterns in networks. Part of my work is motivated by neuroscience applications, such as understanding the activity of central pattern generator networks in insects by studying the underlying mechanisms of gait patterns in insects and transition between the gaits. I am also interested in understanding the collective behavior of bacteria such as E. coli in response to external signals and the dynamics of their decision-making in response to multiple external signals.

  • Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD


    The Andreasen lab focuses primarily on the study of mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia, but also has interests in mood disorder, disorders of aging, and creativity.  In addition to developing methods for descriptive psychopathology, it makes extensive use of neuroimaging tools.  These include structural and functional Magnetic Resonance imaging, with an emphasis on designing novel imaging protocols for functional imaging.  There is a strong interest in integrating imaging data, cognitive assessments, symptom measures, and genetic data.  The lab maintains a very large data set that includes a prospective longitudinal study that followed a very large cohort of schizophrenia patients for a time period lasting up to 15 years.  Fibroblasts have been obtained from a selected subset of patients which are considered to be especially informative and which are currently used for stem cell studies.  Its creativity research emphasizes the study of individuals who have received major awards (Nobel prize, Pulitzer prize, Fields medal), who are assessed using a novel imaging protocol.

  • Nikolai O. Artemyev, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

    The major research interest in the Artemyev Lab is in understanding the molecular mechanisms of sensory signal transduction via heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins. Heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins (G proteins) transduce a variety of signals from specific cell surface receptors to intracellular effector proteins. The laboratory utilizes one of the best model systems for studying the mechanisms of G protein signaling - the rod photoreceptor visual transduction cascade. Mutations in genes encoding key signaling molecules in photoreceptor cells are often associated with severe retinal disorders. A secondary focus is understanding the mechanisms whereby mutant forms of phototransduction proteins cause retinal diseases.

  • Jose Assouline, PhD

    Biomedical Engineering

    The Assouline Lab is focused on discovery of innovative and technologically advanced ways to diagnose and treat neurological diseases.  One approach is to select appropriate molecular makers (immunological and viral methods). It has been a life-long quest to use non-toxic markers which could be used simultaneously in vitro and in vivo. Our work has focused on silica-based nanoparticles as an ideal molecule for the dual purpose of diagnostic and therapeutic. Applications of this novel nanotechnology in our laboratories are aimed to elucidate fundamental aspects of neural regeneration, malignancy, demyelination diseases and environmental neuro-toxicity. Current ongoing research is dedicated to the improvement of quantitative, real-time measurement of disease processes with specifically targeted nanoparticles.   

  • Deniz Atasoy, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    The Atasoy Lab is interested in neural circuits that regulate feeding behavior and metabolism with a special emphasis on disease models of obesity and eating disorders. Using a variety of cutting edge circuit dissection approaches, we map and manipulate neuronal networks to understand synaptic and circuit mechanisms of body weight regulation in health and disease. Environmental conditions such as extended exposure to high fat diet, perinatal undernutrition, and aging, along with genetic factors, are well known to influence long term body weight and feeding behavior. A major focus of the lab is to understand cellular and circuit level maladaptations to such disease-state feeding behavior. We use cell type specific transcriptomics in combination with circuit dissection approaches to identify molecular and cellular basis of maladaptations. Dissecting out the molecular level alterations that have causal role in dysregulation of feeding behavior will likely lead to novel candidate targets for therapeutic interventions for obesity and eating disorders. Feeding behavior is also strongly influenced by global neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, serotonin as well as catecholamines. Circuit level mechanisms of how these modulators interact with hypothalamic feeding pathways are poorly understood. We are using transgenic mouse models to gain access to various neuromodulator-expressing neuron populations and to map out their interactions with key appetite regulating neurons.

  • Sheila Baker, PhD

    Biochemistry, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

    The Baker Lab is currently focused on two fundamental questions: how do different ion channels get localized to the correct part of these sensory neurons; and how is the development of the ribbon synapse orchestrated? Vision begins with the capture of photons by photoreceptors, structurally and functionally fine-tuned sensory neurons lining the back of the retina. Photoreceptors are arranged as a linear set of compartments each responsible for photon capture, energy production, membrane potential regulation, homeostasis, or communication. In many respects photoreceptors are extremely fragile and surprisingly work “backwards” from other types of neurons – for instance light does not cause release of neurotransmitter from the synapse, it stops it. Unraveling the details of photoreceptor cellular and molecular biology is needed to improve our ability to save and restore sight. 

  • Joseph Barrash, PhD

    Neurology, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The primary interest in the Barrash Lab concerns the nature of personality disturbances consequent to development of brain disorders, and issues regarding the assessment of acquired personality disturbances (APD). The method employs the Iowa Scales of Personality Change (ISPC) to obtain ratings of patients from family members with identified neurological conditions. Recent and current projects have investigated APD associated with damage to prefrontal cortex or associated with specific conditions such as behavioral variant-frontotemporal dementia, CVA, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, tumors and traumatic brain injury, as well as personality changes associated with normal aging and their functional consequences. Ongoing investigation also aims to identify and validate specific subtypes of personality disturbance resulting from brain damage.

  • Alex Bassuk, MD, PhD

    Neurology, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The Bassuk Laboratory focuses on the molecular biology, protein biochemistry, and genetic mechanisms in human diseases and in animal models. Along with a diverse cross-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Iowa, we are pursuing a collaborative and innovative approach to use proteomics, fruit flies, zebrafish, and mice to rapidly translate basic science findings into clinical treatments. Our investigative group is well poised to leverage novel in vivo techniques into new treatments for epilepsy and other human diseases.

  • Robert Block, PhD


    Dr. Block has research interests in adverse effects of exposure to general anesthesia during infancy on childhood brain and cognitive development; chronic and acute effects of drugs of abuse, such as marijuana, on memory and other cognitive functions, and on cognition-related changes in regional cerebral blood flow; cognition-related changes in regional cerebral blood flow; awareness and learning during general anesthesia; effects of general anesthesia on memory; effects of anesthetics (e.g., nitrous oxide) and anesthesia-related drugs (e.g., benzodiazepines) on memory and other cognitive functions.

  • Mark Blumberg, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences, Biology

    Every developing animal must learn to function within the context of an ever-changing body. Typically, investigations of sensorimotor development focus on waking movements. The Blumberg Lab considers another class of behavior: Twitching movements that occur exclusively during active (or REM) sleep. Twitches are particularly abundant in early infancy when critical sensorimotor networks and topographic maps are established. Based on behavioral, electrophysiological, neurophysiological, and computational investigations of this unique behavior, we investigate the roles that sleep and sleep-related twitches play in the development and maintenance of the sensorimotor system, as well as its repair after injury or disease.

  • Aaron Boes, MD, PhD

    Neurology, Pediatrics

    Research in the Boes Lab is at the interface of neuroimaging and noninvasive brain stimulation. The lab uses multi-modal neuroimaging techniques to better understand brain function at a macroscopic network level, and how network dysfunction contributes to clinical symptoms, including symptoms from focal brain lesions. The ultimate goal is to use advanced neuroimaging approaches to guide treatment using noninvasive brain stimulation, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We believe there is tremendous therapeutic potential in the combined use of advanced imaging to detect dysfunctional networks coupled with noninvasive brain stimulation to modulate these networks in a targeted way, which aligns with Dr. Boes's clinical role directing the Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Clinical Program.

  • Ryan Boudreau, PhD

    Internal Medicine

    The Boudreau Lab is currently investigating the role of endogenously-encoded microRNAs and novel micropeptides in Parkinson’s disease (PD) pathogenesis in mice. These projects incorporate a breadth of techniques, including viral-based (AAV) overexpression and inhibition (RNAi) of microRNAs and micropeptides in vivo, generation and characterization of CRISPR-derived knockout mice, and behavioral and neuropathological phenotyping in mice. Overall, the research program is balanced in basic and translational studies, wet-lab and computational methods, and resource- and hypothesis-driven research. This framework promotes multi-disciplinary and collaborative science, offering an excellent environment to foster the growth of current and future trainees, as well as make important biomedical discoveries that may translate to the clinical setting.

  • Charles Brenner, PhD

    Biochemistry, Internal Medicine

    The Brenner laboratory discovered nicotinamide riboside (NR) as an unanticipated vitamin precursor of NAD. Because NAD is under attack in conditions including neurodegeneration, NR has strong potential as a translatable preventative and therapeutic molecule in conditions including diabetic peripheral neuropathy (1), chemotherapeutic neuropathy (2) and maintenance of human wellness (3). Researchers in the Brenner group continue to identify mechanisms by which boosting NAD benefits metabolism in systems that include dissection of the maternal and neonatal benefits of NR.

  • Gordon Buchanan, MD, PhD


    Research efforts in the Buchanan laboratory are focused on understanding basic mechanisms of epilepsy and sleep-wake regulation. We are particularly interested in the effects of seizures, vigilance state and circadian phase on cardio-respiratory control and how these may interact to lead to death following a seizure, or sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). We employ behavioral, surgical, electrophysiological, molecular, histological, and imaging techniques in conjunction with a variety of seizure induction methods in a variety of mouse models to address our research questions. Our goal is to understand factors that render a given seizure fatal in an effort to help prevent SUDEP. 

  • Amy L. Conrad, PhD

    Pediatrics, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

    Dr. Conrad is a psychologist who works clinically with children who have learning disorders. Her research focuses on the neural development in children with isolated cleft of the lip and/or palate, with special interest in language and reading development. The work has typically been with children in elementary school and junior high, using fMRI task-based designs, but now is expanding to earlier development (neonatal) and the potential use of fNIRS in this population.

  • Susan Wagner Cook, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The human capacity for learning and communication is fundamental to our success as a species. Humans represent and communicate knowledge, not only in language, but also in hand gestures, which are movements of the hands that typically accompany speech. Although gestures are ubiquitous and robust behaviors, seen in speakers of all ages, of all languages, and from all cultures, it is not at all clear why we gesture when we speak. Dr. Cook seeks to understand the nature and function of gesture. Findings suggest that human thinking emerges from the interaction of abstract, symbolic structures and visible, bodily behavior, and that this interaction draws on simultaneous activation of information across multiple memory systems. 

  • Huxing Cui, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    In order to maintain energy homeostasis, the central nervous system must sense and gather information from periphery on energy status and coordinate appropriate responses, ranging from mood and behavior to the autonomic nervous system activity, to keep balanced energy intake and expenditure. Any disruption in these physiological processes can lead to serious health problems including disordered eating behaviors, obesity and associated chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. The goal of research in the Cui Lab is to uncover the complicated brain networks and signaling mechanisms that control metabolic homeostasis and cardiovascular function. To this end, we employee the state-of-the-art techniques, including optogenetics, chemogenetics and  in vivo Cre/loxP system, combined with behavioral neuroscience, neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, molecular biology and biochemistry.

  • Michael E. Dailey, PhD


    The Dailey Lab utilizes in vitro and in vivo methods to study basic mechanisms of neuronal and glial cell development and plasticity in the mammalian brain using rodent models.  We have particular strength in applying time-lapse fluorescence confocal and multiphoton imaging approaches to investigate the dynamic behavior of neurons and glia in live brain tissues.  Current work in the lab utilizes a combination of cell biological, pharmacological, genetic, and imaging approaches to study the normal development of glial cells (microglia and astrocytes), and to investigate the roles of glial cells and neuroinflammation in developmental brain injury and pathological conditions including traumatic injury, developmental exposure to environmental toxicants including alcohol and pesticides, and cardiovascular conditions such as stroke and hypertension.

  • Sanjana Dayal, PhD, FAHA

    Internal Medicine

    Dr. Dayal’s primary research interest is in studying the mechanisms of vascular dysfunction and thrombosis related to risk factors such as hyperhomocysteinemia, aging, cancer and oxidative stress. Her research work over the years has been supported through several funding’s from American Heart Association and National Institute of Aging, NIH. She has actively published in the area of cerebrovascular phenotypes and is currently examining mechanisms of increased susceptibility to stroke in mouse models of hyperhomocysteinemia. She is recently funded to establish infrastructure for future homocysteine-lowering trials to prevent or decrease vascular incidents in Indian patients with ischemic stroke that will allow her to translate her basic research findings into human stroke. Currently, she is also defining the memory and learning deficits in murine models of hyperhomocysteinemia and aging; she will specifically define mechanistic role of oxidative stress. 

  • Ece Demir-Lira, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Dr. Demir-Lira’s research program addresses the long-standing question of why do some children, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, fall behind their peers in academic achievement while others thrive. Her research addresses this question by combining behavioral methods that characterize children’s home experiences with neuroimaging measures that reveal the neurocognitive basis of children’s academic performance.  She leverages naturalistic, longitudinal observations and experimental designs to examine how the early parental language input in the home environment relates to children’s later literacy and arithmetic skills. She complements this approach with structural and functional neuroimaging measures to analyze how parental language input and parental background relate to the neurocognitive basis of children’s literacy and arithmetic skills, and how these neurocognitive correlates in turn relate to children’s academic success.  

  • Natalie Denburg, PhD

    Neurology, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Research in the Denburg laboratory addresses the cognitive neuroscience of healthy and pathological (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) aging.  One area of emphasis has been the investigation of real-world decision-making (i.e., consumer, medical, and financial decision-making) during older adulthood, to address why older adults are at risk of falling prey to deceptive and misleading sales tactics, and to examine the neurological substrates responsible for such errors in judgment.  Methods used include behavioral, neuroimaging (both structural and functional), and physiological (emotion) measurements.  Secondary interests include cancer survivorship, neuroepidemiology, and social neuroscience.  Our Lab’s research has been funded by both private and public agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), AARP/Andrus Foundation, and The Dana Foundation, and we have current funding from the NIH.  

  • Colin Derdeyn, MD, FACR

    Radiology, Neurology

    Dr. Derdeyn has long-standing interest in: 1. hemodynamic impairment and its relationship with stroke risk and 2. cerebrovascular disease. His work has spanned human physiological studies using PET and MR to investigate and measure cerebral blood flow, blood volume and oxygen metabolism in humans to large scale randomized multicenter trials of revascularization. These studies have included the Carotid Occlusion Surgery Study and the Stenting and Aggressive Medical Management for the Prevention of Recurrent Ischemic Stroke Study. Most recently, we concluded a long-term prospective study of hemodynamics in patients with moyamoya disease, an occlusive vasculopathy that generally affects women in their 3rd and 4th decades. Current work is focused on investigating endovascular methods for revascularization in patients with complete atherosclerotic carotid occlusion, as well as developing a reproducible, validated method for quantifying brain aneurysm growth.

  • Brian J. Dlouhy, MD


    The Dlouhy basic science and translational research lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). We use animal models and study children and adults with epilepsy to identify the neural networks in the brain that influence breathing and to better understand how breathing is inhibited during seizures. Dr. Dlouhy also has a clinical interest and research interest in understanding the pathophysiology, genetics, and proper treatment strategies for Chiari disorders and disorders of the craniovertebral junction (CVJ).

  • Jonathan Doorn, PhD

    Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

    Research in the Doorn Lab focuses on the role of disrupted neurotransmitter (e.g., dopamine) metabolism and/or trafficking in neurotoxicity and neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s Disease. Altered neurotransmitter metabolism and trafficking produces numerous harmful species, including reactive oxygen species, quinones, and of particular interest, reactive and toxic aldehydes via monoamine oxidase. We hypothesize these harmful species, and especially the aldehyde metabolites of neurotransmitters, as chemical triggers and mechanistic links between insult (e.g., environment, pesticides) and conditions that initiate pathogenesis of disease. Goals of our work include: 1) determining mechanisms for aberrant levels of toxic neurotransmitter metabolites; 2) identifying cellular targets (e.g., proteins such as α-synuclein) of these reactive intermediates; 3) developing strategies to mitigate or prevent toxicity or downstream injury from toxic neurotransmitter metabolites. Our hope is that our findings can translate to novel/new drug targets and biomarkers for earlier disease diagnosis.

  • Daniel F. Eberl, PhD


    Mechanosensation, an ancient and essential function, provides multicellular organisms with sensory information for hearing, balance and touch. Studying hereditary as well as environmental hearing loss is imperative, especially as our lifespan increases. The Eberl lab aims to understand genes associated with development, function and long-term maintenance of auditory organs, using the chordotonal organs in the Drosophila Johnston's organ as a model system. He studies conserved transcription factor cascades that specify these sensory organs. The chordotonal sensory neurons, as one of the few ciliated cell types in the fly, allow study of genes involved in ciliary development and function. Furthermore, his lab uses electrophysiology to test fly homologs of human hereditary hearing loss genes, and modeling of noise-induced hearing loss. He is also interested in specialized ion transport mechanisms that generate and maintain the receptor lymph, which resembles the endolymph compartments in the human inner ear.

  • Robert B. Felder, MD

    Internal Medicine

    The sympathetic nervous system is overactive in heart failure, and contributes to morbidity and mortality by promoting fluid accumulation, vasoconstriction, cardiac remodeling and serious ventricular arrhythmias. The Felder Laboratory studies the central nervous system mechanisms that activate the sympathetic nervous system in a rat model of heart failure that simulates human heart failure that develops after a myocardial infarction. We are particularly interested in the effects on the brain of humoral factors that increase in the circulation in heart failure as a result of activation of the immune system (i.e., pro-inflammatory cytokines) and of systems that attempt to compensate for the reduced pumping function of the failing heart (i.e., the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system). Our molecular, immunohistochemical and electrophysiological and hemodynamic recording studies examine the effects of these humoral factors on the neurochemical milieu in central nervous system regions (in particular, the subfornical organ and the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus) that regulate sympathetic nerve activity. The overall goal is to identify central nervous system mechanisms that might become the targets of therapeutic interventions to reduce sympathetic activity in this devastating disease. 

  • Jess Fiedorowicz, MD, PhD

    Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Internal Medicine

    Dr. Fiedorowicz's clinical and translational research in humans focuses on the course of illness of mood disorders and how this influences the primary causes of excess mortality: suicide and vascular disease. 

  • Carrie Figdor, PhD

    Philosophy, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Dr. Figdor's research covers theoretical issues arising from efforts to integrate neuroscience and psychology -- what used to be called "the mind-body problem". She starts from the problem of understanding how to interpret psychological concepts (such as decision-making, or anticipating) in the light of their uses to explain and characterize the behavior of a widening range of nonhuman species (including plants and bacteria). She considers the role of mathematical modeling in psychological conceptual change and the interplay of models and mechanisms in scientific efforts to explain the mind in material terms. She also writes on science communication and the epistemology of science journalism.

  • Rory Fisher, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    Research in the Fisher lab focuses on the molecular/cellular biology and signaling/physiological roles of Regulator of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins.  RGS proteins function as essential negative regulators of G protein-coupled receptor signaling by virtue of their ability to terminate heterotrimeric G protein signaling.  Our recent studies have determined that one member of this family, RGS6, plays a critical role in numerous neuropsychiatric diseases including anxiety/depression, Parkinson’s, and alcohol seeking/dependence, as well as in cancer and heart disease.  While mice lacking RGS6 survive, they exhibit remarkably diverse phenotypes owing to the central role of G protein signaling in biology and the ability of RGS6 to signal by entirely novel G protein-independent mechanisms.  Together with a cross-disciplinary team of collaborators at the University of Iowa we employ a breadth of techniques in these projects, including CRISPR-generated mice, mouse behavioral analyses, brain region-specific viral manipulation of RGS protein expression, optogenetics, as well as molecular genetic and cellular biological approaches.

  • C. Andrew Frank, PhD

    Anatomy and Cell Biology

    Homeostasis is a robust form of regulation that allows a system to maintain a constant output despite external perturbations. In the nervous system, homeostasis plays a critical role in regulating neuronal and synaptic activity. Yet the molecular basis of this form of neural plasticity is generally unknown. In the Frank Lab we address this problem using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This model allows us to combine electrophysiology with powerful genetic and pharmacological techniques. The overall goal is to define conserved signaling mechanisms that direct synapses to maintain stable properties, like excitation levels. It is generally believed that molecules controlling the balance of excitation and inhibition within the nervous system influence many neurological diseases. Therefore, understanding synaptic homeostasis is of clinical interest. This area of research could uncover factors with relevance to the cause and progression of disorders such as epilepsy, which reflects a state of poorly controlled neural function.

  • John H. Freeman, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Research in the Freeman Lab examines the neural circuitry underlying learning and memory. Our general approach is to use multiple systems neuroscience methods to identify neural circuits and neural circuit interactions necessary for learning. Our approach has shifted over the years from identifying the neural inputs and outputs necessary for learning to examining dynamic interactions among neural systems, including feedback loops and sensory gating. With this circuitry-based approach, our efforts primarily focus on three areas of learning and memory research: 1) associative motor learning, 2) categorization, and 3) the ontogeny of learning.

  • Bernd Fritzsch, PhD


    Dr. Fritzsch investigates the molecular development of neurosensory cells of the ear (hair cells, sensory neurons, efferents) with the aim to delay, repair and restore neurosensory hearing loss and the loss of balance.  Current focus of the laboratory is on the use of neurotrophins to maintain innervation of the ear in the absence of hair cells. Recent work concentrates and the possible use of embryonic ear transplantations to investigate the molecular basis of pathfinding of afferents to enter the right nuclei in the brainstem. IN a collaborative work with the Hansen laboratory we are investigating molecular countermeasures to slow the growth of schwannoma. The laboratory uses a combination of molecular tools, transgenic animals, embryonic manipulations and pharmacological treatments in combination with various imaging techniques to analyze the outcomes of the targeted manipulations. 

  • Joel Geerling, MD, PhD


    Deep in the brain, various circuits are constantly working to keep you alive – waking you from sleep, regulating your blood pressure, making you thirsty, and so on. Many age-related diseases affecting the brain, including Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Alzheimer’s Disease, deteriorate of some of these circuits. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the neurons and wiring diagrams in these circuits remains primitive, severely limiting the development of effective treatments for symptoms like insomnia, incontinence, drops in blood pressure, lack of thirst, and other age-related neural circuit disorders. To better understand neural circuits responsible for many of these symptoms, the Geerling Laboratory uses cutting-edge neuroscience tools and genetic targeting to map out new types of neurons and circuit connectivity, and then probe each connection for effects on physiology (blood pressure, breathing, bladder control) and behavior (sleep/wake, drinking/eating, motivation/attention). We have identified neurons and connections that regulate sodium appetite, body temperature, hunger, and continence, and our primary focus now is the arousal system, which maintains conscious wakefulness.

  • Joseph Glykys, MD, PhD


    The Glykys Lab focuses on understanding how the inhibitory system works at the cellular level, with a particular emphasis on how the dysfunction of the inhibitory system leads to seizures. Specifically, the lab is interested in how seizures and other brain injuries result in simultaneous water and chloride accumulation in neurons. The increase in neuronal chloride alters the inhibitory system and leads to an inadequate response to anti-convulsive medications. Excessive water accumulation in neurons causes cytotoxic edema. The long-term goal of our research is to understand the pathways of water and chloride accumulation in neurons and to modulate them to treat seizures, especially during the neonatal period. Our research areas include: studying changes in neuronal chloride concentration and cellular volume during pathological conditions, neonatal seizures, epilepsy, and GABAA receptor physiology. We approach these scientific questions in the neocortex with electrophysiological and two-photon imaging.

  • Justin Grobe, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    The Grobe Lab studies the role of the hypothalamus in the regulation of autonomic and neuroendocrine functions, ultimately to understand neural mechanisms controlling blood pressure and energy homeostasis and thereby hypertension, obesity, and obesity-associated cardiovascular disease.  Currently we are specifically focused on (i) the role of the hypothalamic renin-angiotensin system and its intracellular signaling mechanisms in the control of blood pressure and resting metabolic rate, and (ii) the role of the neurohypophysis and arginine vasopressin in the pathogenesis of the pregnancy-related cardiovascular disorder, preeclampsia.

  • Laurie Gutmann, MD


    Dr. Gutmann has been involved in clinical research for neurological diseases for the last 25 years, primarily focused on neuromuscular diseases, currently myotonic dystrophy, ALS and hereditary neuropathies. Another major interest is education of early clinical investigators.  She is co-PI of a Clinical Trials Methodology Course, funded by the NIH/NINDs, for early investigators to develop projects with guidance from clinical trialists and biostatisticians. In the UI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, she is Associate Director of Workforce Development. As part of the NIH Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT) Clinical Coordinating Center, she is in charge of Site Support and Management. She is co-investigator on an NINDS R01 for longitudinal brain and muscle MRI and functional study in myotonic dystrophy, co-PI of a Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) disease study of pulmonary function and CMT 2A, a site PI for a multicenter myasthenia gravis trial, and co-investigator for several ALS and stroke trials. Dr. Gutmann sees patients in several multidisciplinary clinics.  Board certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, Vascular Neurology, and Neuromuscular Medicine, her mix of experiences and settings/perspectives gives her a unique view of clinical research, development of clinical researchers, and the importance of collaboration across disciplines.

  • Donna Hammond, PhD

    Anesthesia, Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    The Hammond Lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie the transition of acute pain to chronic pain.  Our studies emphasize a multidisciplinary approach to hypothesis testing in which several different methodologies are used in concert, e.g. behavioral pharmacology, electrophysiology, molecular biology, neuroanatomy, and neurochemistry.  We are currently examining the mechanisms responsible for the feed-forward relationship between smoking (chronic nicotine) and chronic pain in that each appears to worsen the other.  We are also investigating the ability of a nutraceutical, nicotinamide riboside, to alleviate chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in a bench-to-bedside research program.

  • Eliot Hazeltine, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Dr. Hazeltine's research focuses on learning how people match external stimuli with internal states to choose responses and engage in flexible, goal-directed behaviors. He has approached this problem using a range of methodologies, including neuropsychology and neuroimaging. Although this work represents a diverse set of findings, a central theme is that response selection processes are not generic but instead depend on the specifics of the task and the context in which it is embedded. That is, tasks are represented as more than just a collection of stimulus-response associations. The brain appears to encode rich representations of the task and these representations have important effects on performance in terms of compatibility effects, learning, and control processes.

  • Karin Hoth, PhD, ABPP


    Dr. Hoth’s research focuses on understanding physiological mechanisms that impact brain structure and function in adults with chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.  Research in the Hoth lab is highly interdisciplinary bringing together experts in neuroscience, internal medicine, radiology, and human physiology.  We are currently conducting a NIH/NHLBI-funded project utilizing behavioral measures and imaging techniques (neuroimaging, chest CT, vascular ultrasound) to examine the link between specific changes in lung and vascular physiology and the brain targeting smokers with early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Dr. Hoth is also involved in several other projects involving cognitive assessment including work with the multi-site COPDGene study, work with patients with interstitial lung disease, and research on coronary artery disease.

  • Matthew Howard, MD


    Dr. Howard is a neurosurgeon-scientist and director of the University of Iowa Human Brain Research Laboratory (HBRL).  A broad range of experimental studies are carried out within the HBRL making use of the unique opportunities to study normal human brain functions in patient-subjects who are undergoing clinically necessary neurosurgical procedures. HBRL research projects are organized around multi-disciplinary collaborative teams of neuroscientist and clinician-scientists from leading neuroscience research centers in the U.S. and overseas. Researchers use novel combinations of invasive and non-invasive experimental methods to address questions about the functional organization of the human brain that cannot be answered using non-invasive methods alone.     

  • Rainbo Hultman, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

    A primary difficulty in developing therapeutics for brain disorders is that the underlying etiological mechanisms are not well understood. We have made recent breakthroughs in our understanding of the relationship between electrical activity in the brain and behavior, which is promising for shedding light on these mechanisms. The Hultman lab studies networks of electrical activity in the brain using pre-clinical rodent models of disease and is working to identify the cellular and molecular factors that contribute to the organization of such networks. Our overarching goal is to promote the development of precision medicine (i.e. therapeutics targeted to specific individuals) by identifying therapeutic targets that promote healthy brain electrical network activity. Two brain disorders of primary focus in the lab include migraine and major depressive disorder. By probing the underlying electrical networks of these disorders and identifying molecular drivers of such activity, we will be better positioned to develop more effective treatments for these debilitating disorders

  • Kai Hwang, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The Hwang Lab conducts research to discover the neural, cognitive, and developmental dynamics of cognitive control. Specifically, we are interested in the neural architecture and dynamic processes that allow brain networks to select, inhibit, transfer, and integrate information for goal-directed behaviors. Together, these mechanisms support many important mental functions during typical and atypical development, such as attention, working memory, response selection and inhibition. We address our research questions with a comprehensive human neuroscience approach, combining multimodal research methodologies, including fMRI, EEG, TMS, lesion studies, eye tracking and behavioral testing.

  • Mathews Jacob, PhD

    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    The main focus of Dr. Jacob's research is two synergistic research areas: development of machine learning algorithms that can learn the structure from noisy and sparse/missing data, and the application of the above algorithms to advance the state of the art in neuro-imaging technology, including MRI and microscopy. The first line of research (machine learning algorithms) is key to the interpretation and discovery of knowledge in the vast amounts of data generated by advanced in-vivo neuroimaging methods, which are often corrupted by physiological noise and imaging artifacts. In the second area, we use the structure learned by the algorithms to improve the state of the of imaging methods such MRI and microscopy; specifically, the learned structure is used to constrain the reconstruction of the images from noisy and sparse/missing observations (accelerated MR imaging). 

  • Bahri Karacay, PhD


    Dr. Karacay's research focuses on the abnormalities of the developing nervous system that are caused by two neuroteratogenic agents: alcohol, (fetal alcohol syndrome) and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (congenital LCMV infection). While these two research programs, particularly fetal alcohol syndrome, constitute the core of his scholarly efforts, he also has been interested in development of gene therapy for Alexander Disease, a disease of cerebral white matter that affects children. 

  • Randy Kardon, MD, PhD

    Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

    Research in the Kardon Lab include use of facial features of expression, reflex eyelid movements, gaze, and pupil light reflexes to diagnose and monitor eye and neurological disorders in humans and animals. Current funding focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of light sensitivity, traumatic brain injury, therapeutic interventions for preserving vision in blinding eye diseases. Structure-function relationships in the visual system are being investigatted using optical coherence tomography (OCT), ocular blood flow and autoregulation using laser speckle flowgraphy, image analysis, and structural MRI and functional MRI. We are actively involved in the development of telemedicine tools for objectively evaluating the status of the visual and neurological systems for testing in remote locations and home testing. Dr. Kardon is Director of the Iowa City VA Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss (CPTVL), funded by the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Division.

  • Alan Kay, PhD


    Ion and water fluxes play an important role in nervous systems; from generating action potentials to the damaging water fluxes induced by trauma. The sodium pump is a primary driver of these fluxes, establishing the asymmetry of sodium & potassium ions across the membrane, which is necessary from generating action potentials. Particular interests in the Kay Lab are how the pump stabilizes cell volume counteracting the Donnan effect induced by impermeant molecules and controls water flux. The coupling of ion fluxes by groups of cells also plays a central role in sensory transduction. In collaboration with Dr. Dan Eberl, we study how the coupling of different cell types in the fly ‘ears’, which are housed in its antennae, make it exquisitely sensitive to movement.

  • Youngcho Kim, PhD


    Dr. Kim studies the role of the dopaminergic system in cognitive function. The dopaminergic dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex contribute cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease and Schizophrenia. His current research focuses on the influence of dopamine on prefrontal networks controlling cognitive behaviors such as timing and decision making. By combining optogenetics and neuronal ensemble recordings in transgenic animals, he interrogates cell-type specific neuronal circuit in awake, behaving animals. This work contributes to the development of new treatment strategies for affected neurological diseases.

  • Toshihiro Kitamoto, PhD

    Anesthesia, Pharmacology

    The Kitamoto Lab is interested in gene-gene and gene-environment interactions that have a significant impact on the regulation of physiological and pathological behaviors. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as an experimental organism, our current projects aim at elucidating 1) how diet, gut microbiota, and genes involved in lipid metabolism affect neural development and function to modify neurological phenotypes of voltage-gated sodium channel mutants, and 2) how “non-genomic” steroid signaling via G-protein coupled receptors regulates complex behaviors in response to internal and external environmental factors.

  • Ryan T. LaLumiere, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    The La Lumiere Lab focuses on two related areas: The neurobiology of learning and memory and the neurobiology of drug addiction. In the first line of research, we focus on the mechanisms that underlie memory consolidation in rodents, with particular attention given to how the amygdala modulates such processes. In our approach to this issue, we target specific pathways connecting brain regions in combination with a variety of learning tasks in order to dissociate the roles of the pathways in different kinds of learning. For our drug addiction work, we take a learning-and-memory approach to understanding the neural mechanisms involved in drug-seeking behavior in rodents. For this work, rats undergo drug self-administration, followed by different paradigms that allow the animal to demonstrate its drug-seeking behavior. In particular, we are interested in understanding those systems, largely based in prefrontal cortex, that inhibit drug seeking.

  • Douglas R Langbehn, MD, PhD

    Psychiatry, Biostatistics

    Dr. Langbehn is a board-certified psychiatrist turned biostatistician. H is broadly interested in research design, analysis, and interpretation. More specifically, his goal is to use his dual expertise to match appropriate statistical design and analysis methodologies to specific goals in brain disease research. Over the past 16 years, he has focused on a variety of projects related to Huntington's Disease. These have included structural and functional brain imaging analysis, phenotyping and quantitative modeling of primary and secondary genetic effects, biomarker assay development, clinical trial design, and clinical descriptive research based on neuropsychology, psychiatric, and movement disorder measurements. While still active in these areas, his interests have recently broadened to include the statistical genetic and other etiologic modeling of both autism and familial substance use disorders.

  • Gloria Lee, PhD

    Internal Medicine

    Research in the Gloria Lee Lab focuses on tau protein, the main component of the neurofibrillary tangles found in several age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. We identify and investigate novel interactions of tau, with the goal of elucidating (1) basic structure and function of tau, (2) the function of phosphorylated forms of tau that are found during neurodegeneration, and (3) functions that are altered by the mutant forms of tau that cause frontotemporal dementia (FTDP-17). Previously, we found that tau potentiated NGF-induced MAPK activation and recently, we found an interaction between tau and the protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2. Currently, we are probing the role of this interaction in tau’s ability to affect MAPK activation. Lastly, we have also been investigating the function of the interaction between tau and the non-receptor tyrosine kinase Fyn, by using a double knockout mouse that lacks both tau and Fyn. 

  • Amy Lee, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

    Research in the Lee Lab centers on voltage-gated (Cav) Ca2+ channels and their roles in the nervous and cardiovascular systems. We view Cav channels as macromolecular complexes, the components of which regulate their properties and involvement in cellular transduction cascades. One focus is on Cav1 L-type channels at sensory "ribbon" synapses in the retina and inner ear, where Cav protein interactions transform presynaptic Ca2+ signals required for high-throughput neurotransmitter release. A second focus is on protein interactions regulate Cav1 channels involved in spontaneous firing (pacemaking) in the heart and brain. Our approach is multidisciplinary: we use patch-clamp electrophysiology for studies of Cav channel modulation and exocytosis; molecular biology, protein chemistry, and immuncytochemistry for analysis of Cav protein interactions; and gene silencing methods (siRNA, targeted gene disruption) and in vivo electrophysiology to evaluate the physiological consequences of Cav protein interactions in the context of hearing, vision, and cardiac rhythmicity. Our long-term goal is to develop pharmacological strategies to target cell-type and tissue-specific Cav regulatory mechanisms, which may prove more selective than current Cav agonists and antagonists in the treatment of neurological and cardiovascular disease.

  • Enrique Leira, MD


    Dr. Leira is an experienced Board certified Vascular Neurologist with additional training in Epidemiology and translational research methods. He is the principal investigator of one of the 25 Regional Coordinating Centers for the national research network NIH-StrokeNet. His area of interest in developing interventions to improve the outcome of patients living in rural communities far away from a tertiary center. His epidemiological interest in stroke disparities based on location has led to the development of clinical trials where the intervention is delivered during helicopter transport. That research has created the need for a translational study testing the influence of unique physical factors present during helicopter transportation on an ischemic brain. That led to the development of a new experimental approach that combines animal models of stroke and reperfusion with actual helicopter transportation. He is also studying the effects of Uric Acid in mitigating the effect of reperfusion injury.

  • Vincent A. Magnotta, PhD

    Radiology, Neuroscience

    The Magnotta Lab is currently focusing on the development of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging techniques that are sensitive to brain metabolism. Currently we are focusing on T1rho, CEST, and MR spectroscopic based techniques. Using these techniques coupled with other quantitative imaging markers (e.g. T1 and T2 relaxation measures) we are exploring metabolic changes associated with several psychiatric (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and neurological disorders (Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease). In addition, we are exploring how metabolism changes with symptoms and disease progression. Future work will accelerate these imaging measures allowing them to assess functional changes in the brain.

  • Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD


    Dr. Mangalam’s research program is focused on understanding Microbiome-Gut-Immune-Brain axis in health and diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS). The human adult gut contains approximately 1000 grams of bacteria with genomic and biochemical complexity of microbiota exceeding that of the brain. Recent studies from Dr. Mangalam’s group suggest that gut microbiota diversity might play a major role in CNS diseases.  His group has also shown that certain gut commensal bacteria can suppress disease in the preclinical model of MS. Gut microbes can communicate with the brain through a variety of routes including the vagus nerve, cytokines, and metabolites including phytoestrogens-derived compounds such as equol. The current focus of the lab is to determine the mechanisms through which diet and gut microbiota maintain immune homeostasis and regulate neurological functions. He utilizes unique transgenic mice expressing MS-linked HLA class-II molecules to decipher how adaptive immune responses determine host microbiota composition and modulate neuroinflammation.  

  • Catherine Marcinkiewcz, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    Dr. Marcinkiewcz's laboratory is focused on delineating the role of serotonin in complex brain disorders such as alcohol dependence, depression, and Alzheimer's disease. Serotonin neurons are mainly localized to the raphe nuclei of the brainstem, but their axons are widely distributed throughout the nervous system and have a ubiquitous role in physiological processes and behavior. Adding to this complexity is the diverse array of high-affinity receptors that bind serotonin, each having distinct effects on behavior. The lab is using a variety of intersectional tools for targeting, manipulating and monitoring the activity of discrete serotonin circuits in order to gain insight into how these circuits are disrupted in psychiatric disorders. We are also investigating the role of enteric serotonin in brain disorders such as autism and generalized anxiety disorder. The ultimate goal of this work is to identify new therapeutic targets for these often intractable conditions.

  • Katherine Mathews, MD

    Neurology, Pediatrics

    Dr. Mathews's research goal is to improve care of children and adults with neuromuscular diseases. As part of the University of Iowa Wellstone Center, she leads an ongoing longitudinal study of individuals with hypoglycosylation of alpha-dystroglycan resulting in muscular dystrophy with variable involvement of brain and eye formation (dystroglycanopathies).   This work will provide data necessary for planning clinical trials and to improve patient care.  She also has longstanding engagement in an epidemiologic study of muscular dystrophies in collaboration with the College of Public Health and funded by the CDC. This epidemiologic data will assist with planning trials and improving care across muscular dystrophies.  She is part of a Friedreich ataxia clinical consortium, collecting natural history data. She also directs Iowa's participation in several industry-sponsored clinical trials for neuromuscular diseases.

  • Bob McMurray, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Dr. McMurray's research uses cognitive neuroscience and behavioral techniques to look at the fundamental mechanisms of speech perception and language processing and the development of these fundamental human abilities. He combines electro-encephalography (EEG), intercranial recordings on human epilepsy patients, and eye-tracking with computational models and machine learning techniques to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms of language. 

  • Jacob Michaelson, PhD

    Psychiatry, Communication Sciences and Disorders

    The Michaelson Lab focuses on computational psychiatry and genomics. We are interested in the use of computing to improve the understanding, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions.  We use a variety of data modalities: genomic, metabolic, pharmacological, medical record, imaging, audio recording, textual, and body movement to build predictive models that assist us in our mission of improving mental health through computing. We have extramurally-supported research programs involving computational methodology, animal models, and human subjects research. 

  • Toshio Moritani, MD, PhD


    Dr. Moritani's current research interests are new concepts and hypotheses that integrate neuroradiology and neuroscience.

    1) Molecular biology, genetics and pathology of brain tumors correlated with the findings on different cutting edge imaging modalities (Diffusion-Perfusion Imaging, MR Spectroscopy, and PET)

    2) Excitotoxic brain injury of acute and chronic neurological diseases correlated with the findings on different cutting edge imaging modalities Diffusion Imaging, MR Spectroscopy, and CEST. Referred to “Moritani T, Smoker WRK, Sato Y, Numaguchi Y, Westesson P. Diffusion-weighted imaging of acute excitotoxic brain injury. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 26:216-228, 2005.”

    3) Neuroimmunology such as CNS cytokinopathy in CNS white matter diseases correlated with the imaging, laboratory data (CSF study), and neuropathology.

  • Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD

    Associate Director for Seminars and Workshops


    Our mission is to map the neural circuits that malfunction in brain diseases that impair higher-order thinking. This data will help generate new and highly specific treatments for these disorders.

    How does dopamine affect cortical circuits involved in cognition? We study the influence of dopamine on prefrontal networks controlling cognitive behaviors such as timing and performance monitoring. We combine ensemble recording from populations of neurons in awake, behaving animals with specific manipulations using techniques such as optogenetic stimulation, targeted pharmacology, or selective genetic disruption with RNA interference.

    How does the prefrontal cortex control downstream brain areas? The prefrontal cortex projects to brain areas such as the striatum and the subthalamic nucleus. These brain areas are involved cognitive processing, and we study how prefrontal projections to these brain areas control cognitive processing in these downstream brain areas.

    How can we protect and preserve circuits that malfunction in Parkinson's disease? Along with our collaborators, we study a variety of circuit-level and cellular processes in Parkinson's disease that lead to neurodgeneration and side-effects of current drugs for Parkinson's disease. This effort could lead to new and optimized treatments for Parkinson's disease.

  • Mark Niciu, MD, PhD


    The Niciu Lab is broadly interested in the pathophysiology and experimental therapeutics of major mood disorders, particularly glutamate and subanesthetic-dose ketamine in treatment-resistant major depression. Another major aim is the identification, replication and dissemination of antidepressant response biomarkers. As an example, our group and others have observed that treatment-resistant depressed subjects with a family history of an alcohol use disorder in a first-degree relative have a greater and more sustained antidepressant response to ketamine. We are currently studying potential alcohol-sensitive multimodal, e.g. psychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging, biomarkers to predict antidepressant response with greater sensitivity and specificity than family history alone. On the translational front, we use human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-based models, i.e. cortical-like spheroids, to study genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease and pharmacological response to racemic ketamine, bioactive ketamine metabolites and other compounds in the future.

  • Thomas Nickl-Jockschat MD


    The Nickl-Jockschat lab aims to characterize brain structural changes in psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorders. As shown previously, these neuroanatomical anomalies do not appear to be mere epiphenomena, but closely related to the actual symptoms level of these disorders. Thus, a better understanding of these brain structural changes and their molecular and environmental causes might decisively help to develop not only a better understanding, but also new therapeutic approaches for the respective disorders.

    Given the complex etiopathogenesis, the Nickl-Jockschat lab employs a wide range of methods, including human and animal imaging and advanced brain mapping techniques, including the use of cutting-edge gene expression atlases. A special focus lies upon a joint analyses of these various modalities. 

  • Peggy Nopoulos, MD

    Neurology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics

    Dr. Nopoulos’s research focuses on the study of brain and behavior.  Specifically, she studies aspects of understanding normal healthy brain such as differences in brain structure and function between the sexes as well as understanding how the brain changes with development through adolescence. In regard to the study of disease, her lab focuses on research into brain structure and function in two main areas:  prematurity, and neurogenetics with focus on triplet repeat disorders (Huntington’s Disease and Myotonic Dystrophy). This is done using state of the art neuroimaging techniques, specifically Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which includes structural imaging, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, resting state fMRI, and novel sequences such as T1rho (pH imaging).  

  • Kirill Nourski, MD, PhD


    Dr. Nourski works in the Human Brain Research Laboratory with a team of neurosurgeons and neuroscientists to understand how the human brain processes sounds. Our research program is among a handful in the world with expertise in working with neurosurgical epilepsy patients who undergo electrode implantation for clinical diagnostic purposes. This provides a unique opportunity for direct electrophysiological recordings from the human brain. Dr. Nourski's work focuses on studying the functional organization of human auditory cortex through systematic investigation of its basic response properties. This knowledge, in turn, serves as a foundation for understanding higher auditory functions, i.e. how the brain “makes sense of sound” to build a coherent percept of the environment. He also studies how attention, level of consciousness and degraded listening conditions affect sound processing. This line of work seeks to bridge my basic research with interventions for patient benefit.

  • Sterling Ortega, PhD


    Stroke is caused by a loss of blood flow to the brain, in some cases resulting in permanent neurological damage. Previous research in the Ortega Lab has made significant advances in understanding the neuro-immunological interplay by demonstrating the possible opposing roles that immune cells play during stroke recovery. We showed that B-cells ameliorate stroke severity, while novel neuronal-reactive CD8+ T-cells were robustly activated following an ischemic injury. CD8 T-cells are potentially detrimental as their function includes cytotoxicity to target cells, and in the case of stroke, the very cells which are undergoing repair. In fact, in a pediatric patient cohort, we observed CD8 T-cell reactive to brain antigens only in patients with heart/lung treatment which subsequently developed brain injury. Current focus is on the role of stroke-induced GluN2A (neuronal)-specific CD8+ T-cells as secondary mediators of neuronal cell death following an ischemic injury, thus inhibiting endogenous motor function recovery.

  • Hiroyuki Oya, MD, PhD


    The Oya Lab studies functional and effective connectivity of the human brain focusing on the auditory, emotional network.  This information is important for the clinical application for the treatment for patients with various psychiatric condition and diseases in audition. We combine information both from invasive electrophysiology (ECoG) and non-invasive measure that reflects brain’s activation (fMRI) to map the functional connectivity in the same living human brain. External direct stimulation methods (direct electrical stimulation and trans-magnetic cortical stimulation) are also utilized to perturb the brain tissue and analyze the response to it. We are also interested in how the invasive or non-invasive brain stimulation can modulate or even recover the function lost in the disease, and ultimately, we hope the functional and effective connectivity information would guide the future treatment not only for the diseased human brain but also the spinal cord damage.

  • Krystal Parker, PhD


    The primary goal of the Parker Lab is to characterize cerebellar neural circuitry with the goal of improving treatments for complex and devastating cognitive and mood abnormalities that are common in neuropsychiatric diseases. Our research is highly translational as we interrogate cerebellar circuitry in animals using electrophysiology, optogenetics, and pharmacology and compare these data to EEG paired with cerebellar TMS administered in clinical populations. The cerebellum contains more neurons than the rest of the brain combined and although it is most famous for its role in motor control, its contribution to cognitive and affective processes is less clear. Schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and bipolar disorder are all examples of disorders involving cerebellar abnormalities that are characterized in part by impairments in cognition and mood. Using cerebellar modulation, we hope to capitalize on the cerebellum’s diffuse connections with the rest of the brain to identify and restore patterns of neural activity that are aberrant in disease.

  • Stanley Perlman, MD, PhD


    The Perlman Lab is interested in neurovirology and neuroimmunology. Specifically, we study demyelination induced by infection of mice with a neurotropic coronavirus. Our interests range from virus tracing to the innate and adaptive immune responses to the factors important in demyelination and disease severity. Recent work has focused on the inflammatory milieu in the infected brain and the role of prostaglandins and other lipid mediators in outcomes. We  also have projects studying the role of microglia in host defense and  in how regulatory T cell diminish myelin damage mediated by effector anti-viral T cells.

  • Isaac T. Petersen, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Dr. Petersen's Developmental Psychopathology Lab is interested in how children develop individual differences in adjustment, including behavior problems as well as competencies.  Dr. Petersen is particularly interested in the development of externalizing behavior problems and underlying self-regulation difficulties.  His primary research interests include how children develop self-regulation as a function of bio-psycho-social processes including brain functioning, genetics, parenting, temperament, language, and sleep, and how self-regulation in turn influences adjustment and school readiness.  A special emphasis of his work examines the neural development underlying the development of self-regulation, school readiness, and externalizing problems, with measures of electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs).  To study the development of self-regulation and behavior problems, the lab follows children and their families longitudinally, from an early age, and examines multiple levels of analysis.

  • Robert A. Philibert, MD, PhD


    The focus of the research efforts by Dr. Philibert's academic research group and its commercial affiliate, Behavioral Diagnostics LLC, isepigenetics. Specifically, we have developed and are commercializing proprietary epigenetic tools for the assessment and treatment of tobacco and alcohol consumption. In addition, we are in the process of translating additional tools for the assessment and treatment of other forms of substance use as well as general medical diagnostics for disorders such as coronary heart disease. The academic group is the caretaker for several large longitudinally characterized, biologically informed cohorts and possesses state of the art equipment for many aspects of molecular inquiry.

  • Matthew J. Potthoff, PhD

    Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    Obesity and insulin resistance are major contributors to the epidemic of metabolic diseases including dyslipidemia, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Research in the Potthoff Lab is focused on the physiological mechanisms that regulate energy homeostasis and insulin sensitivity.  We are specifically interested in unraveling pathways that govern systemic energy balance and glucose homeostasis in hopes of identifying a new therapeutic to treat obesity and metabolic disease. This has led  to studying the diverse functions of the endocrine hormone fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) which acts in the brain to increase energy expenditure and regulate carbohydrate homeostasis. Utilizing novel mouse models, classical pharmacological methodologies, and state-of-the-art tracer techniques, we have uncovered novel mechanisms regulating glucose homeostasis and energy expenditure that could lead to new treatments for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

  • Veena Prahlad, PhD


    Dr. Prahlad's broad research interests are to understand cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease etc. are debilitating age-related diseases for which there are currently no interventions to reduce cell dysfunction and death. All cells possess  protective gene expression programs which can, in many cases, dramatically ameliorate toxicity and neuronal death in animal models of these diseases.  However, in these degenerative disease, for unknown reasons, these protective mechanisms are not effectively activated. Our laboratory studies how these conserved, cytoprotective, gene expression programs are controlled. To address this, we use a combination of biochemical, cellular, molecular, and genetic approaches in the model organism C. elegans and in mammalian cell lines. 

  • Jason J. Radley, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Threats to safety, whether real of perceived, activate a set of physiological, behavioral, and endocrine responses that promote effective coping.  Known collectively as stress responses, these have adaptive value for the individual in the short term.  However, when stress responses are activated over a sustained period they can initiate the onset of or worsen a variety of psychiatric and systemic disease states.  Our research program uses anatomical, behavioral, neuroendocrine, optogenetic approaches to understand the neural circuitry and mechanisms that regulate stress responses in rodents, and how these systems malfunction through the course of chronic exposure, as a greater knowledge of these pathways and how they malfunction is needed to minimize or prevent the adverse effects of stress on health and disease.  

  • Kamal Rahmouni, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    The Rahmouni Lab seeks to understand the fundamental biological events in the central nervous system that controls metabolism and cardiovascular function in health and disease. Dr. Rahmouni is especially focused on the identification of the neuronal pathways that determine metabolic and cardiovascular regulation. Studies in the laboratory are also being directed towards uncovering how these pathways are dysregulated in disease conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. The lab uses multidisciplinary approaches including basic cellular and molecular research tools, genetic models and sophisticated physiological techniques including direct sympathetic/parasympathetic recordings that allow us to address physiological questions at the molecular level.

  • George Richerson, MD, PhD


    One goal of the Richerson Lab is to determine the mechanisms by which serotonergic neurons sense changes in CO2, and how their downstream effects contribute to control of pH. Defining the mechanisms of central respiratory chemoreception may lead to specific treatments for diseases in which respiratory chemoreception is abnormal and provide a better understanding of how CO2 and pH affect CNS function. The team is also studying how GABA is released from neurons and glia, and how this release is affected by anticonvulsants. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.

  • David L. Roman, PhD

    Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

    The Roman Lab has been investigating members of the adenylate cyclase family of enzymes and the regulation of cyclases through unique protein-protein interactions as novel therapeutic targets, exploiting a unique set of protein-protein interactions to achieve small molecule inhibitor selection among the ten different cyclase family members. 

  • Andrew Russo, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Neurology

    Dr. Russo's research interest is the molecular basis of migraine. The hallmark of migraine is altered sensory perception coupled with a debilitating headache. Clinical studies have established that the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a key player in migraine. Using mouse models, we have shown that CGRP acts both centrally and peripherally to induce light aversive behavior analogous to photophobia. CGRP also induces pain indicated by facial grimace and reduced voluntary movement. Our lab is currently using genetic and optogenetic tools to identify the neural pathways responsible for CGRP-induced photosensitivity and pain. We are also exploring how CGRP is elevated by cortical spreading depression, which is associated with migraine aura and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recently, we have begun translational studies testing photosensitivity in migraine patients and veterans with mild TBI. Our overall goals are to develop effective diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for migraine and post-traumatic headache.

  • Rasna Sabharwal, PhD

    Internal Medicine

    Research in the Sabharwal Lab is directed towards understanding neurohumoral regulatory mechanisms in health and disease.  Ongoing projects investigate the role of renin-angiotensin system, sympathetic nervous system, and hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis in muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, dilated cardiomyopathy and stress-induced sudden death.  We utilize multidisciplinary and state-of-the art approaches such as radiotelemetry, echocardiography, in vivo viral gene transfer, optogenetics etc. to assess cardiovascular and autonomic functions, sleep-wakefulness patterns, behavior and neural circuitry in genetically modified mice.  Our ultimate goal is to identify novel therapies that can be translated to yield better clinical outcomes in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases, cardiomyopathies and psychosocial disorders. 

  • Jordan Schultz, PharmD

    Pharmacy Practice and Science & Psychiatry

    The Schultz Lab engages in clinical and translational research involving patients with neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on Huntington’s disease.  We take an epidemiological approach to identify environmental factors, including medications, that may have an effect on disease progression.  Using this information, our lab uses novel neuroimaging techniques to test specific hypotheses to better understand the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration.  The Schultz Lab is also well-positioned to perform clinical trials on identified interventions.

  • Julien A. Sebag, PhD

    Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

    The Sebag Lab studies the regulation of GPCRs involved in the control of energy and glucose homeostasis. The Melanocortin Receptor Accessory Protein 2 (MRAP2) is critical for the maintenance of energy balance and the loss of MRAP2 results in severe obesity. Therefore, identifying the mechanisms by which MRAP2 regulates energy homeostasis and the signaling pathways involved is a major goal of our laboratory. We have so far identified several GPCR targets of MRAP2 and those receptors all play important roles in regulating feeding and energy expenditure in the hypothalamus. MRAP2, through its effects on GPCRs, modulates the activity of neurons in the paraventricular nucleus and the arcuate nucleus, thus making it a key central regulator of energy sensing and feeding behavior. We use pharmacology, animal behaviorla studies, metabolic studies and proteomics to further our understanding of the role and mechanism of MRAP2 with the goal of identifying new targets and strategies for the treatment of obesity.

  • Val Sheffield, MD, PhD


    The Sheffield Lab is interested in identifying and understanding the function of genes which cause a variety of human disorders. Our research efforts have focused on the molecular genetics of monogenic disorders, as well as polygenic and multifactorial disorders. Our research efforts have resulted in the mapping of many different disease loci. In addition, we have used positional cloning methods to identify genes involved in a number of different diseases including hereditary blindness and deafness. Efforts are currently underway to use positional cloning strategies to identify additional disease-causing genes. Complex genetic disorders currently under investigation in the laboratory include hypertension, obesity, congenital heart disease and autism. In addition, we have worked on developing and improving techniques for disease mapping, positional cloning, and mutation detection. We have also had an active role in the human genome project and the rat genome project.

  • Gen Shinozaki, MD


    The Shinozaki Lab aims to study the molecular influence of environmental factors such as trauma and stress on individual susceptibility to psychiatric conditions including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) using an epigenetic/genetic approach.

  • Michael Shy, MD


    Dr. Shy is focused on translational research to develop rational therapies for patients with inherited peripheral neuropathies and related neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Kathleen Sluka, PT, PhD

    Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

    Dr. Sluka's laboratory studies the peripheral and central mechanisms of chronic musculoskeletal pain, and non-pharmacological treatment for chronic pain. These studies involve the use of animal models of muscle pain developed and characterized in Dr. Sluka's laboratory, as well as projects in human subjects. We use a variety of techniques to address these questions including cell culture, molecular biology, genetic manipulations, behavioral pharmacology, and standard clinical trial methodology. Our overall goals are to improve the management of pain for people with a variety of musculoskeletal pain conditions by discovering the underlying mechanisms that lead to the development of chronic pain, discovering new therapies for pain management, and improving the use of currently available treatment for pain.

  • Diane Slusarski, PhD


    Research in the Slusarski Lab focuses on cell-cell signaling events that lead to intracellular calcium release. We integrate in vivo image analysis coupled with molecular-genetic tools to elucidate the role of calcium-dependent signaling networks critical in developmental processes such as body plan formation and organogenesis in the zebrafish. The zebrafish (danio rerio) model system for vertebrate developmental biology has many attributes including genetics, rapid development and translucent embryos. Due to the remarkable conservation of developmental processes and mechanisms among vertebrates, we also use zebrafish as a model for human disease and test candidate genes.

  • Richard Smith, MD


    Richard Smith is an internationally recognized scientific leader who directs the Molecular Otolaryngology and Renal Research Laboratories (MORL).  He has authored over 500 articles and has made major impacts in our understanding of genetic hearing loss and complement-mediated renal diseases. In the domain of genetic hearing loss, scientists in the MORL have discovered numerous genes implicated in deafness, made seminal advances in our understanding of genetic hearing loss, introduced comprehensive genetic testing as the best test in the clinical evaluation of the deaf person, and are leading advances in gene therapy for deafness.  In the domain of renal disease, the MORL is internationally known for expertise in complement-mediated renal disease. Scientists in the MORL have identified new genetic causes of atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, defined the complex role of genetics in the pathogenesis of the C3 glomerulopathies, and developed and validated complement biomarker profiling as an index of ongoing complement activity to follow disease status in patients with these diseases. 

  • Ryan M. Smith, PhD

    Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

    The Smith Lab studies mechanisms of RNA regulation, focusing on spatial and temporal dynamics of RNA expression in cells of the central nervous system. A major aim of the laboratory is to identify functional polymorphisms that modulate RNA expression. These polymorphisms are substrate for a number of downstream applications, including genetic association studies in complex genetic disorders and pharmacogenetic analyses, novel drug target identification and validation for CNS disorders, and studies on evolutionary selection pressures.

  • Greta Sokoloff, PhD

    Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Humans sleep the most when they are young and yet very little is known about why. Importantly, during infancy we spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep than at any other time in our life. Dr. Sokoloff is interested in understanding the role of sleep, especially REM sleep, in early brain development. Her work has found that the movements that accompany REM sleep, myoclonic twitches, result in strong activation of sensorimotor systems – activation that is rarely observed when infant rodents are awake. Following decades of research investigating the role of twitching on the development of the sensorimotor system in infant rodents, we are now investigating twitching in human infants. With an understanding of the quantity and patterning of twitches in early postnatal development, in concert with neural activity, we hope to leverage REM sleep twitches as an early assessment of brain and spinal cord function in typically and atypically developing human populations.

  • Janice Staber, MD


    The Staber lab is working to understand the impact and mechanism of factor VIII deficiency on the structure and function of the developing brain. People with hemophilia are recognized to be at risk for neurocognitive disorders even when treated from less than 2 years with factor VIII replacement protein. Understanding the impact factor VIII on neurocognitive outcomes will inform the design of future preventative trials.

  • Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD


    The Psychiatry and Early Neurobiological Development Lab (PENDL) in the Iowa Neuroscience Institute seeks to understand molecular and cellular aspects of early brain development and their relevance to psychiatric disorders. We are particularly interested in understanding how prenatal stress, environmental exposures, and genes that play a role in early development have an impact on childhood behavior and act as risk factors for multiple psychiatric disorders. 

    We use mostly basic science techniques including molecular, cellular, neuroanatomical, and behavioral assessment of mouse models. Specific mechanisms currently being examined in the lab are embryonic neuronal migration, telomere biology and oxidative stress, embryonic neurogenesis, fibroblast growth factor signaling, and branched chain amino acid metabolism. We also examine risk factors during prenatal development in family cohorts. Our goal is to advance mental health prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders across the lifespan. We particularly focus on the high risk times of pregnancy and early development. 

  • Edwin M. Stone, MD, PhD

    Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

    Research in the Stone Lab is focused on the diagnosis, mechanistic understanding, and treatment of a wide variety of inherited retinal diseases. Specifically, we are working to develop: 1) cost effective, sensitive and specific genetic tests; 2) strategies for creating transplantable retinal tissues from patient-derived iPSCs (for cell-based treatment as well as for rapidly and inexpensively assessing the performance of new therapeutic vectors in human cells); and, 3) an assortment of immune-deficient animal models of inherited retinal disease that can be used for testing the viability and functionality of genetically-corrected, iPSC-derived retinal cells.

  • Stefan Strack, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology

    Research in the Strack Lab revolves around signal transduction mechanisms in neuronal development and neurodegeneration. We have two main areas of research interest. The first is regulation and substrate specificity of neuronal protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) holoenzymes. The second area is regulation of the mitochondrial fission/fusion equilibrium by protein kinases and phosphatases. Our research is relevant to the treatment of neurological disorders (in particular, peripheral neuropathies and spinocerebellar ataxias), ischemic stroke, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

  • Lane Strathearn, MBBS, PhD, FRACP


    Dr. Strathearn is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa, Director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and Physician Director of the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD). His research focuses on the neurobiology of mother-infant attachment, including longitudinal studies of parents and infants, examining maternal brain and oxytocin responses to infant face and cry cues, using functional MRI and behavioral observation. His most recent NIH grants support research into maternal brain responses of drug-addicted mothers, and the potential role of intranasal oxytocin to enhance parental caregiving responses. As co-director of the University of Iowa Autism Center, he is also interested in developmental, behavioral and genetic risk markers for autism and has conducted eye tracking research in children with autism.

  • Daniel Summers, PhD


    Neurons establish functional connections throughout the human body by projecting long structures called axons that can reach over a meter in length. Axons are highly susceptible to stress or injury such that axon degeneration is an early and prominent event in many neurological disorders. The Summers Lab investigates the biology of axons with a focus on proteostasis networks controlling axon integrity and vulnerability to pathological axon degeneration. The lab uses a combination of biochemistry, cell biology, and animal models to interrogate protein homeostasis pathways in the axon compartment. The primary goal of this research is to understand the cellular pathways responsible for axon survival and identify new therapeutic opportunities for intervention in neurodegenerative diseases.

  • J. Bruce Tomblin, PhD

    Communication Sciences and Disorders

    Dr. Tomblin's research has been concerned with the causes and consequences of individual differences in language development and disorders.  With respect to the first topic, he has focused on pathways that run through multiple levels of causation ranging from genetic and environmental factors through brain and cognitive learning systems. His genetics research has been done in collaboration with Jeff Murray and recently Jake Mickelson searching for genetic factors that influence brain systems that support language development and contribute to developmental disorders. His imaging work has involved structural MRI and functional connectivity of brain systems cortical and subcortical) associated with language. This work has been done in collaboration with Dr. Peg Nopoulos and Dr. Brad Schlaggar at Washington University in St. Louis. Recently we have extended this work to use MRI to examine individual differences in auditory, speech and language brain systems in children with mild to severe hearing loss with a focus on the effects of variation in auditory and linguistic input on these brain systems.

  • Dan Tranel, PhD

    Neurology, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Research in the Tranel laboratory is aimed at understanding brain-behavior relationships in humans, at systems level. Two main approaches are used: (1) the lesion method, in which brain-damaged patients are studied with neuropsychological procedures to determine how certain lesion sites are related to certain cognitive and behavioral deficits; and (2) functional imaging, including PET and fMRI, in which the brain activation in normal subjects is measured while the subjects are performing various tasks. Specific topics that Tranel is working on currently include: brain networks; retrieval of conceptual knowledge; retrieval of words and lexical knowledge; emotion and decision-making; nonconscious processing; acquired disorders of social conduct; memory; and psychophysiology. Tranel's research has been continuously funded for more than three decades.

  • Yuriy M. Usachev, PhD

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Anesthesia

    Chronic pain management remains one of the most serious public health problems. The Usachev Lab uses an array of molecular biological and genetic techniques, combined with patch-clamp recordings and fluorescent imaging of intracellular Ca2+, Na+ and pH changes in pain-conducting neurons (called nociceptors), as well as behavioral studies to address two broad sets of questions related to chronic pain pathogenesis. The first set of questions focuses on relatively rapid changes to nociceptor excitability and synaptic transmission that are induced by proinflammatory mediators generated by immune and glial cells at the site of injury or inflammation, and mediated via phosphorylation of so-called pain channels, including TRPV1, TRPA1 and voltage-gated Na+ channels Nav1.7, 1.8 and 1.9. We are particularly interested in the role of the complement system factors C3a and C5a in regulating nociceptor excitability and function. The second set of questions examines the long-term changes to the nociceptor molecular composition and function in response to injury or inflammation, and involves alterations in gene expression.