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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?


  • Rainbo Hultman, PhD

    Associate Director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

    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


  • 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.