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Neuroscience (NEUS) Program Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research

For more than 30 years, students and faculty have been running a vibrant and diverse research program focused on understanding sequelae of spinal cord injury (SCI) and investigating strategies for repair and functional recovery.

Our collaborative group applies contemporary cutting-edge advances in stem cell transplantation, physiology of locomotion and respiration, gene therapy, rehabilitation protocols and pharmacological interventions to open new avenues for more effective treatments for acute and chronic spinal cord injury.

Other ongoing studies concentrate on traumatic brain injury, with a focus on how to minimize the expansion of damage and develop interventions that restore cognitive function. We study the spectrum of severity, from mild concussions to severe trauma, and additionally focus on repetitive concussions. Of particular interest is the study of how the developing brain responds to brain trauma. The goal of these studies is to develop pharmacologic and rehabilitative strategies to limit damage and restore function.

For translation of these findings, a diverse group of clinical and basic scientists are collaborating to develop effective approaches to the evaluation and treatment of patients with spinal cord or brain injury.

Patched Shox2 interneuron (pink) from a neonatal triple transgenic mouse.

Patched Shox2 interneuron (pink) from a neonatal triple transgenic mouse. Chx10 (green) and Shox2 (red) interneurons are overlapping populations. Shayna Singh, Dougherty Laboratory

An axonal growth cone from an adult dorsal root ganglion neuron.

An axonal growth cone from an adult dorsal root ganglion neuron stained for βIII-tubulin (green) and acetylated tubulin (red, also shown in fire scale). Modified from Di Wu et al., 2020. Tom Laboratory

Research Collaborations

Areas of Interest

Techniques Employed

  • Neuroplasticity
  • Axon regeneration
  • Cellular transplantation (e.g., stem cells, peripheral nerve bridges, fibroblasts)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Gliotic response to injury
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Autonomic dysfunction (e.g., cardiovascular modulation, urination)
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Neuroprotective strategies
  • Cortical and spinal interactions in recovery
  • Robotics and brain-machine interface
  • Computational neuroscience and modeling
  • Recovery of motor, sensory, autonomic functions
  • Microtubule-based therapies for augmenting nerve regeneration
  • Preclinical rodent models of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury
  • Novel spinal and peripheral electrode design
  • Whole-cell patch clamp
  • In vivo electrophysiology
  • Multielectrode recording techniques
  • In vivo miniscope optical neural recordings
  • Neuromodulation (chemogenetic; optogenetic)
  • Neural tissue transplantation
  • Primary neuron cell culture
  • Stem cells (directed differentiation; cellular engineering differentiation)
  • hIPSC (microtissues; organoid development)
  • Sensory and Behavior assays
  • Plethysmography
  • Cystometry
  • Radiotelemetric hemodynamic recordings
  • Flow cytometry
  • Molecular profiling (RNAseq, RNAscope)
  • Transsynaptic tracing
  • Two-photon and confocal microscopy
  • Quantitative real-time PCR
  • Laser-capture microscopy
  • Spatial biology—chip cytometry, NanoString
  • Nanotechnology

Neurobiology and Anatomy Faculty