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Neuroscience (NEUS) Areas of Research

While the program's coursework introduces students to the broad study of neuroscience, the program's research projects focus on four specific areas of study, including:

Spinal Cord and Brain Injury

 
For more than 30 years, we 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.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Our collaborative faculty members apply 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 SCI.

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.

Areas of interest

  • Neuroplasticity
  • Axon regeneration
  • Cellular transplantation (e.g., stem cells, peripheral nerve bridges, fibroblasts)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Gliotic response to injury, including neuroinflammation
  • Autonomic dysfunction (e.g. cardiovascular modulation, urination)
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Neuroprotective strategies
  • Robotics and brain-machine interface
  • Computational neuroscience and modeling
  • Recovery of motor, sensory, autonomic functions
  • Microtubule-based therapies for augmenting nerve regeneration

 
Neurobiology and Anatomy Faculty

 
Biology Faculty

  • John R. Bethea, PhD
  • A. Denise R. Garcia, PhD

 
For more information, please visit neurobio.drexelmed.edu/Research/SCRC/

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Cellular Neurosciences

 
The cells that comprise the nervous system are among the most remarkable in nature. The Neuroscience graduate program includes several laboratories with robust research programs in the cellular aspects of neuroscience.

Image from neuroscience graduate program research at Drexel University.

We are addressing fundamental questions such as how axons grow, branch and navigate during development, how dendrites become different from axons, and how neurons migrate from their sites of origin to their final destinations in the developing brain. These questions are addressed using contemporary molecular biological techniques, biochemistry, primary cell culture, cutting-edge microscopy including live-cell imaging, as well as in vivo models including genetic mice and Drosophila. Studies are focused on cytoskeletal elements including microtubules and actin filaments, signaling pathways, local protein synthesis, axonal transport and synaptic transmission.

All of the cellular neuroscientists in the program have robust pre-clinical disease and injury components in their research programs, with emphasis on diseases including Alzheimer's, hereditary spastic paraplegia, ALS, autism spectrum disorders, Gulf War illness, HIV-AIDS, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's, as well as injuries including spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. Some of us are using stem cells and induced pluripotent cells from human patients with neurodegenerative diseases. The cellular neuroscientists at Drexel University have robust collaborations with systems and behavioral neuroscientists, clinical neuroscientists, biomedical engineers and cell biologists studying other cell types such as epithelial, immune and cancer cells.

Neurobiology and Anatomy Faculty

 
Pharmacology and Physiology Faculty

 
Microbiology and Immunology Faculty

 
Biology Faculty

  • A. Denise R. Garcia, PhD
  • Daniel Marenda, PhD
  • Elias Spiliotis, PhD
  • Aleister Saunders, PhD
  • Michael Akins, PhD

 
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Systems and Behavioral Neurobiology

 
The Systems and Behavioral Neurobiology group includes faculty from diverse fields whose fundamental goal is to understand the biological basis of behavior. Faculty members in this multidisciplinary group share common interests in the neurobiology of monoamine systems, peptide transmitters and psychostimulant drug actions. Ongoing research projects employ an array of sophisticated neurochemical, electrophysiological, neuroanatomical and behavioral assays, as well as computer modeling, to investigate primary mechanisms of normal brain function and their application to neurological, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.

Areas of Interest

Techniques Employed

  • Ingestive behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Regulation of executive function
  • Learning and memory
  • Psychostimulant drugs and ADHD
  • Stress, anxiety and PTSD
  • Sleep and arousal
  • Locomotion and neural networks
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Whole-cell patch clamp
  • Multi-electrode, single-unit recording
  • Sleep electrophysiology
  • Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry
  • Molecular profiling
  • Quantitative real-time PCR
  • Behavioral assays
  • Tract-tracing and immunohistochemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Optogenetics
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Disease and injury models

There is a strong ongoing collaboration among various investigators in the College of Medicine and other schools and colleges at Drexel.

Neurobiology and Anatomy Faculty

 
Pharmacology and Physiology Faculty

 
Microbiology and Immunology Faculty

 
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Neuroengineering

 
Faculty members at the College of Medicine and the School of Biomedical Engineering are combining strengths in this highly interdisciplinary area of research. The Neuroengineering tracks in both the Neuroscience program, and in the School of Biomedical Engineering PhD programs, each provide entry into this dynamic field. Entry through neuroscience emphasizes the neuroscience and neurophysiological applications of novel technologies, and quantitative and computational techniques.

The unique strengths of the Drexel neuroscience research groups are the significant expertise in basic neurosciences, computational modeling of pattern generator and reflex systems, development of spinal motor prostheses, development of cortical motor/sensory prostheses, brain machine interfaces (BMIs) and neurorobotics. Components of this program combine novel neuroprosthetic techniques for intraspinal, limbic and cortical prostheses, with therapeutic approaches to brain and spinal cord injury and rehabilitation in rodent models.

The group is well known for experimental and modeling analyses of motor systems in particular. These analyses range from learned neurorecovery and BMI augmentation of voluntary locomotion and limb use to brainstem and spinal reflex and pattern generator controls of breathing, locomotion and reflex reaching mechanisms. Motor acts are ultimately the way that animals and people act in the world and express the outcomes of all cognitive, perceptual and reflexive neural processes. Understanding the motor basis of behavior requires an attention to basic physics, biomechanics, muscle and nerve physiology, neural networks, multi-scale models, control theory principles and optimal control ideas.

Faculty

 
For more details, see the Neuroengineering track

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An image of DRG Neurons from the neuroscience program at Drexel University College of Medicine.