Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

Leadership

  • Ted Abel, PhD

    Director - Iowa Neuroscience Institute

    Neuroscience and Pharmacology, 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?


  • Laurie Gutmann, MD

    Associate Director for Clinical Research

    Neurology

    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.


  • Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD

    Associate Director for Seminars and Workshops

    Neurology

    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.


  • Joshua Weiner, PhD

    Associate Director for Education and Outreach

    Biology

    The Weiner Lab is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms regulating neural circuit formation in the developing brain. We utilize a variety of transgenic mouse models, generated using Cre/LoxP and CRISPR/Cas9 techniques, as well as cell line, neuronal, and glial cultures, protein biochemistry, transcriptomics, and confocal microscopy. Many current projects center around protocadherins, diverse cell adhesion molecules that we've shown are critical for neuronal survival, dendrite arborization, and synaptogenesis. We are also identifying functions for a poorly-understood nuclear protein, Akirin2; mice lacking this protein in the nervous system exhibit microcephaly, ataxia, defective neuronal and glial differentiation, and dysregulation of genes involved in circuit formation. Our work, funded by the NIH, March of Dimes, and other private organizations, is relevant to a wide variety of neurodevelopmental disorders associated with autism and intellectual disability.


  • John Wemmie, MD, PhD

    Associate Director for Translational Research

    Psychiatry, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Neurosurgery

    Dr. Wemmie is interested in the role of brain pH and acid-sensing ion channels in brain function and behavior. This work has led to the discovery of critical roles for brain pH in synaptic plasticity, anxiety, and depression-related behaviors in mice. Current projects include investigating the synaptic mechanisms for acid-sensing ion channel action and also translating these discoveries to human behavior and brain function. For example, his laboratory is using non-invasive pH-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the roles of brain pH in psychiatric illnesses such as panic disorder and bipolar affective disorder.