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Research Electives

Introduction

Many labs on the UW campus and elsewhere perform research relevant to neurology. You are welcome to work in any of these labs or to design a clinical research project.

Goals and Objectives

The overall goals of a research elective are for the resident to gain experience in research methods while contributing to generalizable knowledge in neurology; see the evaluation matrix below. Obviously, the specific objectives will vary according to the project.

Departmental Approval Procedure

In the list below we have provided a list of research programs in neurology that can sponsor your work. Please identify a research mentor (typically the director of your chosen research group) and meet with this person ahead of time to make sure they can accommodate you during the time frame you have in mind. Also, make sure that IRB approval, if needed, is in place to cover your work. If you have questions about that process, please talk with Dr. Gallagher.

Although you may not finish your chosen project during your rotation, we would like the experience to culminate in completed work that is presented in some form—as a poster, grand rounds, neurology research day talk, or (best yet) a peer-reviewed publication. Please submit an outline of the project sections as described below. Your research plan must be approved by Dr. Gallagher in addition to your chosen mentor before your begin your rotation.

Outline for Required Project Description
(1-2 pages, please include references)

Background:  Summarize specific scientific literature relevant to your project. Point out current gaps in knowledge and how your project will address these.

Hypothesis:  For the phenomenon you are studying or the intervention you are planning, what is your expectation of the outcome?

Research plan:  Describe the subject group (humans or animals) or materials and  methods you will use, what data you will collect, and how the data will be analyzed. By the end of the rotation, this section should be of sufficient detail that your work could be replicated.

Expected results:  Describe the results you expect to see and state whether such results will prove your hypothesis. Are there limitations that may make the study inconclusive?

Conclusions:  You may leave this section to the end of the rotation. What is the significance of your results and how do they fit in with the existing literature.

References:  We recommend that you use citation software to prepare this.

Selected Research Programs in Neurology:

Corinna Burger, PhD: Our lab is interested in two main problems in molecular neuroscience: the molecular biology of learning and memory, and the genetic mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders.

Catherine Gallagher, MD:  Dr. Gallagher’s research aims to develop new neuroimaging biomarkers for the pathology and progression of Parkinson’s disease. In particular, the lab is interested in how disease-related changes in brain connectivity affect cognition in Parkinson’s disease. Currently we are recruiting Parkinson’s and control subjects to participate in a longitudinal MRI study, and are preparing to analyze novel image sequences from the first time point. Data analyses will include looking for associations between standardized cognitive and motor evaluations and brain imaging parameters such as functional and structural connectivity, volumetric studies, and quantification of white matter hyperintensity volume.

David Hsu, MD, PhD: I apply quantitative mathematical methods to EEG data to see if we can extract more information from such data. A recent project involves pseudo-wavelet analysis of EEG from children with epilepsy and comparison with neuropsychological data (obtained by Drs. Bruce Hermann and Jana Jones in one of their projects) to identify whether electrical brain activity at certain frequencies is associated with better (or worse) performance on tests of intelligence and attention. In the next phase of this project, we will apply memory kernel analysis to this same data set. We also hope to test whether peripheral nerve stimulation (using TENS devices) can enhance (or impair) performance on tests of intelligence and attention and whether the EEG changes as well. In addition, we are collaborating with Dr. Iskandar (of Pediatric Neurosurgery) in a project to study intracranial pressure waveforms using some of the same quantitative methods.

Zhen Huang, PhD: The cerebral cortex is the site of higher cognitive function in the brain.  Its function depends critically on the intricate organization at several levels within the cortex.  This ranges from the global organization of neuronal cell bodies in the cortex (e.g., the formation of cortical layers), to the elaboration of distinct dendritic patterns by various types of neurons, and eventually to the formation of specific synaptic connections among the different types of neurons.  My lab is interested in several aspects of the development of the cerebral cortex.  We are particularly interested in how these different levels of organization in the cerebral cortex arise during normal development and how they are affected in and contribute to human diseases.  We are using several approaches including mouse genetics and in vitro tissue culture to address these questions.

Chris Ikonomidou, MD, PhD: My research focuses on how environmental factors may interfere with normal brain development and cause neurologic impairment. My group has investigated impact of alcohol, sedative and antiepileptic drugs, drugs of abuse, oxygen, hypoxia-ischemia and trauma on the developing rat and mouse brain. We described that during the early postnatal period these factors can cause massive apoptotic cell death in the brain and also impair cell birth and neurogenesis.

I am also interested in studying the impact of cancer chemotherapy on brain structure and function. In this topic we are moving towards the clinic and want to prospectively study the impact of cancer chemotherapy in children on brain development and function using multimodal imaging, blood and CSF biomarker analysis and neuropsychological evaluation.

More recently I developed interest in neuromodulation and its potential application in treatment of intellectual disabilities and in prevention of epileptogenesis.

Jana Jones, PhD:  Anxiety and Depression in children with epilepsy. Camp Cope-A-Lot.

Christopher Luzzio, MD: Dr. Luzzio has an affiliate appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a grant to study methods of treating hydrocephalus. Here is more about his academic work.

Cara Westmark, PhD: Dr. Westmark’s basic and translational science research in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and fragile X syndrome focuses on the synaptic function of amyloid beta protein precursor (APP) and amyloid-beta. The goal is to identify therapeutic and dietary approaches that reduce amyloid-beta and rescue seizure, behavioral, cognitive and biomarker phenotypes.

Su-Chun Zhang, PhD: Dr. Zhang's lab focuses on how human neuroepithelial cells are specified and subsequently differentiated into neurons and glia.

Evaluation Matrix

Schedule

Determined according to the needs of the specific research project. There are no call responsibilities while on this rotation.

Work Hours

The estimated work hours is 40 hours per week. 

Suggested References

These will vary according to the type of research.

Latest revision: 07-09-2019