Research Focus

The primary focus of my research is the analysis of basal ganglia function in relation to movement deficits in preclinical animal models of normal aging and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Because diminished and slowed motor activity (bradykinesia) and gait disturbances are cardinal Parkinsonian signs, functional changes in the nigrostriatal dopamine system are believed to play a primary role in their increased expression in the elderly. A central hypothesis of my research is that age-related changes in the functional dynamics of this system, especially as it interacts with glutamatergic and cholinergic neurotransmission, disrupt the normal processing of motor-related information throughout the basal ganglia. As an extension of this research, I am very interested in characterizing and promoting the use age-relevant preclinical models of age-related neurodegenerative and neuromuscular conditions, especially PD. Because normal physiological function is changed in aging, the use of older animals as models should facilitate the development of effective neuroprotective or restorative therapies. I am also involved in studies examining clinically-analogous measures of motor function in preclinical models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and prescription drug use and abuse in the elderly (e.g., benzodiazepines). We have also recently initiated studies examining insulin resistance in the brain and periphery in rodent models of PD.