Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Neurosurgery for intractable neuropsychiatric illness has emerged as a safe and effective treatment option for many patients, most notably those with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) reduces PD patients’ symptoms and drug-related side effects. Advances in the nascent field of optogenetics have led to the discovery of a neural circuit crucial for producing the therapeutic response to DBS, centered on cortical afferents to the subthalamic nucleus (STN). We hypothesize that selective, long lasting modification of synapses within this circuit will improve efficacy of DBS. We describe a method to selectively study the synapses of neural pathways underlying DBS’ therapeutic effect, using transgenic mice whose PD-like symptoms are reversed by optical stimulation. We are currently developing neuroactive compounds that could be developed as intraoperative therapeutic adjuncts to existing or modified DBS protocols.