Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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Daniel Arthur Abrams
Clinical Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsAutism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders and are characterized by significant deficits in social communication. A common observation in children with ASD is that affected individuals often “tune out” from social interactions, which likely impacts the development of social, communication, and language skills. My primary research goals are to understand why children with ASD often tune out from the social world and how this impacts social skill and brain development, and to identify remediation strategies that motivate children with ASD to engage in social interactions. The theoretical framework that guides my work is that social impairments in ASD stem from a primary deficit in identifying social stimuli, such as human voices and faces, as rewarding and salient stimuli, thereby precluding children with ASD from engaging with these stimuli.
My program of research has provided important information regarding the brain circuits underlying social deficits in ASD. Importantly, these findings have consistently implicated key structures of the brain’s reward and salience processing systems, and support the hypothesis that impaired reward attribution to social stimuli is a critical aspect of social difficulties in ASD. The first study produced by this program of research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and showed that children with ASD have weak brain connectivity between voice processing regions of cortex and the distributed reward circuit and amygdala. Moreover, the strength of these speech-reward brain connections predicted social communication abilities in these children. A second study, which was recently published in eLife, examined neural processing of mother’s voice, a biologically salient and implicitly rewarding sound which is associated with cognitive and social development, in children with ASD. Results from this study identified a relationship between social communication abilities in children with ASD and brain activation in reward and salience processing regions during mother’s voice processing. A third study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that mother’s voice activates an extended voice processing network, including reward and salience processing regions, in typically developing children. Moreover, the strength of brain connectivity between voice-selective and reward and salience processing regions predicted social communication abilities in these neurotypical children. Together, results provide novel support for the hypothesis that deficits in representing the reward value of social stimuli, including the human voice, impede children with ASD from actively engaging with these stimuli and consequently impair social skill development.
My future research will leverage these findings by examining several important questions related to social information processing in children with ASD. First, we aim to study longitudinal development of social brain circuitry in minimally verbal children with ASD, a severely affected subpopulation that has been vastly underrepresented in the ASD literature. Second, we aim to examine the efficacy of naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions, such as Pivotal Response Treatment, for children with ASD and their relation to changes in social brain and reward circuitry. Third, we aim to examine distinct neural profiles in female children with ASD who, on average, have better social communication abilities compared to their male counterparts.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Genetics
BioThe Abu-Remaileh Lab is interested in identifying novel pathways that enable cellular and organismal adaptation to metabolic stress and changes in environmental conditions. We also study how these pathways go awry in human diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration and metabolic syndrome, in order to engineer new therapeutic modalities.
To address these questions, our lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the biochemical functions of the lysosome in vitro and in vivo. Lysosomes are membrane-bound compartments that degrade macromolecules and clear damaged organelles to enable cellular adaptation to various metabolic states. Lysosomal function is critical for organismal homeostasis—mutations in genes encoding lysosomal proteins cause severe human disorders known as lysosomal storage diseases, and lysosome dysfunction is implicated in age-associated diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration and metabolic syndrome.
By developing novel tools and harnessing the power of metabolomics, proteomics and functional genomics, our lab will define 1) how the lysosome communicates with other cellular compartments to fulfill the metabolic demands of the cell under various metabolic states, 2) and how its dysfunction leads to rare and common human diseases. Using insights from our research, we will engineer novel therapies to modulate the pathways that govern human disease.
Clinical Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMy research lies in the intersection of Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Healthcare, and Computational Neuroscience.
Assistant Professor of Radiology (Neuroimaging) and, by courtesy, of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Materials Science and Engineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur goal is to develop and clinically implement new technologies for high-precision and noninvasive intervention upon the nervous system. Every few millimeters of the brain is functionally distinct, and different parts of the brain may have counteracting responses to therapy. To better match our therapies to neuroscience, we develop techniques that allow intervention upon only the right part of the nervous system at the right time, using technologies like focused ultrasound and nanotechnology.
Gregory W. Albers, MD
Coyote Foundation Professor and Professor, by courtesy, of Neurosurgery
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur group's research focus is the acute treatment and prevention of cerebrovascular disorders. Our primary interest is the use of advanced imaging techniques to expand the treatment window for ischemic stroke. We are also conducting clinical studies of both neuroprotective and thrombolytic strategies for the treatment of acute stroke and investigating new antithrombotic strategies for stroke prevention.
Russ B. Altman
Kenneth Fong Professor and Professor of Bioengineering, of Genetics, of Medicine (General Medical Discipline), of Biomedical Data Science and, by courtesy, of Computer Science
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsI refer you to my web page for detailed list of interests, projects and publications. In addition to pressing the link here, you can search "Russ Altman" on http://www.google.com/
Kanwaljeet S. Anand
Professor of Pediatrics (Pediatric Critical Care) and of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsDr. Anand is a translational clinical researcher who pioneered research on the endocrine-metabolic stress responses of infants undergoing surgery and developed the first-ever scientific rationale for pain perception in early life. This provided a framework for newer methods of pain assessment, numerous clinical trials of analgesia/anesthesia in newborns, infants and older children. His research focus over the past 30+ years has contributed fundamental knowledge about pediatric pain/stress, long-term effects of pain in early life, management of pain, mechanisms for opioid tolerance and withdrawal. Current projects in his laboratory are focused on developing biomarkers for repetitive pain/stress in critically ill children and the mechanisms underlying sedative/anesthetic neurotoxicity in the immature brain. He designed and directed many randomized clinical trials (RCT), including the largest-ever pediatric analgesia trial studying morphine therapy in ventilated preterm neonates. He has extensive experience in clinical and translational research from participating in collaborative networks funded by NIMH, NINDS, or NICHD, a track-record of excellent collaboration across multiple disciplines, while achieving success with large research teams like the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network (CPCCRN). He played a leadership roles in CANDLE (Condition Affecting Neuro-Development & Learning in Early infancy) and other activities of the Urban Child Institute and UT Neuroscience Institute. More recently, he led the NeoOpioid Consortium funded by the European Commission, which collected data from 243 NICUs in 18 European countries.
Professor of Neurology
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur research focuses on understanding how immune responses initiate and accelerate synaptic and neuronal injury in age-related neurodegeneration, including models of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. We also focus on the role of immune responses in aggravating brain injury in models of stroke. Our goal is the identification of critical immune pathways that function in neurologic disorders and that can be targeted to elicit disease modifying effects.
Martin S. Angst
Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur laboratory's current transformative research efforts focus on studying immune health in the context of surgery and anesthesia.