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Feras AltwalFeras Altwal
PhD Student

Parkinson disease (PD) is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disorder. In PD, dopamine neurotransmission into the basal ganglia is compromised as a result of degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain, leaving patients with debilitating motor symptoms such as bradykinesia (e.g., slow movements), tremor, muscle stiffness, postural instability, and psychiatric issues such as depression and cognitive dysfunction. 

Current available therapies for PD, such as dopamine replacement strategies (e.g., L-Dopa), improve motor dysfunction by partially restoring dopamine signaling. However, many side effects have been observed in PD patients when L-dopa is administrated, including dyskinesias, which are uncontrollable involuntary movements of the body. 

My research focuses on the investigation of non-dopaminergic co-therapies which target intracellular signaling mechanisms in the striatum such cyclic nucleotides and the metabolic enzyme phosphodiesterase 9A (PDE9A).  The goal of these novel treatments is to augment the prokinetic effects of L-Dopa while minimizing troubling side effects such as dyskinesias.

Alyssa LittlefieldAlyssa Littlefield
M.S. Student

My research focuses on the ways in which dysregulated intracellular Ca2+ signalling contributes to disease pathology in Alzheimer's disease as well as traumatic brain injury. Specifically our lab focuses on the ryanodine receptor channels located on the endoplasmic reticulum and targeting these channels in order to regulate the aberrant calcium release seen in both Alzheimer's disease and Traumatic brain injury. I am currently investigating the efficacy of Dantrolene and other similar novel compounds, which are RyR negative allosteric modulators, to stabilize Ca2+ signalling in both Alzheimer's and Traumatic brain injury using both cell culture and animal models.

Soumyabrata Munshi

Soumyabrata Munshi
PhD Student

I am presently performing my PhD dissertation works in Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology under the "Interdepartmental Neuroscience PhD Program (IDNP)." My work is focused on exploring the effects of immune system activation and stress on amygdala physiology and amygdala-dependent behavior in rats.

Conor Murray

Conor Murray
PhD Student

Drug addiction is driven by maladaptive forms of neuroplasticity in motivation circuitry. My research investigates the molecular basis of increased synaptic transmission that underlies intensified cocaine craving in withdrawal. Currently, I'm exploring the impact of microRNAs on the accumulation of calcium-permeable AMPA-type glutamate receptors in synapses of the nucleus accumbens during withdrawal from cocaine self-administration.

Sarah MustalySarah Mustaly
PhD Student

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology is the accumulation of maladaptive protein aggregates such as amyloid and hyperphosphorylated tau. Normally, dysfunctional proteins are degraded through the autophagosome-lysosomal pathway. It is suggested that this pathway is dysregulated, which allows for the accumulation of protein aggregates. In addition, lysosomal function depends on Ca2+ homeostasis. My research focuses on the link between calcium regulation and protein degradation through the autophagosome-lysosomal pathway in regards to Alzheimer’s disease.


Sean Schrank

Sean Schrank
PhD Student

Alzheimer's Disease is an irreversible neurodegenerative disease that is the 6th leading cause of death in the United states of America. This disease affects more than 5 million Americans and will cost our nation an estimated $259 billion in 2017. As our population ages, more people will be affected by the disease and will need treatment and support. Our lab's interest involves the use of human induced neurons to model Alzheimer's disease, specifically modeling changes in calcium homeostasis.


Julia Love

Julia Love
PhD Student

My research focuses on neurogenesis in the adult cerebral cortex. Normally, this region is completely devoid of on-going neurogenesis even in the case of injury. Several cell types have been explored as potential candidate populations for neuronal conversion such as astrocytes, pericytes, and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). OPCs are an ideal population because they represent the majority of proliferating cells in the cerebral cortex and they respond to injury by under-going rapid proliferation and migration to the site of injury. My goal is to use OPCs as the target cell population and convert them into function neurons in vivo.


Mentor Thaqi

Mentor Thaqi
PhD Student

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is the most complex organ in the body that is responsible for integrating information and coordinating activities across the whole organism. In neurologic diseases the shared common characteristics involve neuronal cell injury. Thus, repair of the CNS constitutes the integral part in treating neurologic diseases and plays a crucial role in restoring CNS architecture and function. Neurons are terminally differentiated cells with limited neurogenesis. Consequently, when injured the mature human brain has a limited capacity to repair itself. Our approach is focused on targeting endogenous oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) to drive regeneration and repair. Utilizing the cell-reprogramming technology we induce neuronal differentiation of OPCs with proneural transcription factors. Through this methodology we aim to establish the capacity to generate new neurons to restore the loss incurred due to pathology. Furthermore, we intend to investigate the newly engineered neurons potential to contribute to neuronal circuitry and demonstrate functional integration. Thus, the direct in-vivo neuronal conversion approach renders a unique opportunity and holds great promise for translating pre-clinical cortical reprogramming studies to viable restorative therapeutic options.

Interdepartmental PhD Program Graduates

Aug, 2015 - Craig Werner
June, 2015 - Anthony Purgianto
May, 2015 - Stanley Bazarek
April, 2015 - Andrew Scheyer
Nov, 2014 - Angela Bruno
May, 2012 - Xuan (Anna) Li
May, 2012 - Xiaoting Wang
May, 2012 - Daniel Hafez
Dec, 2011 - Laura Shin
Dec, 2011 - Jeffrey Huang
Nov, 2011 - Dina Simkin
June, 2011 - Shreaya Chakroborty
May, 2011 - Randy Leitermann
June, 2010 - Giovanna Bernal
June, 2010 - Alexander Dec
June, 2010 - Jeremy Reimers
July, 2009 - Diana Park
May, 2009 - Kristina Hoque
May, 2008 - Amana Rostkowski
Apr, 2008 - Kelly Conrad
Aug, 2007 - Tamuna Chadashvili
June, 2007 - Amy Boudreau
June, 2005 - Rosanne Thomas
May, 2005 - Anna Hallbergson
Apr, 2005 - Eleanora Maries
Nov, 2004 - Tara Teppen
May, 2003 - Kyriaki Sidiropoulou
Apr, 2002 - Gregory Hotsenpiller
Feb, 2002 - Yang Dong
Jan, 2002 - Jayms Peterson
Aug, 2001 - Steven Chao
Apr, 2000 - Donald Cooper
Jan, 2000 - Timothy Koetzlow
May, 1999 - Elizabeth Bundock
May, 1999 - Lara Friel
Sept, 1998 - Lisa Monteggia
June, 1998 - Yong Li
May, 1998 - Christy Stine
May, 1998 - Michael W. O'Brian
May, 1997 - Robert T. Weschler
May, 1995 - Jaime De Santiago Gonzalez
May, 1994 - Noushafarin N. Taleghany