Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Biology
Institution
California Institute of Technology
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
MC 156-29
City, State, Zip
Pasadena, CA 91125
Phone
(626) 395-6813
E-mail
viviana[at]caltech.edu
Website
http://glab.caltech.edu/
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2013

Research

Our lab studies the generalized role that axonal stimulation could play into disorders targeted by deep brain stimulation, including Parkinson's disease. The National Institutes of Health estimates that Parkinson's disease affects more than 500,000 people in the United States. While no method is approved to prevent neurodegenerative diseases in humans, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been shown to restore motor function in many people with Parkinson's disease. How DBS, which directly changes brain activity through controlled electrical pulses, achieves successful changes to the brain is largely unknown. With the Pew award, I intend to study the causal links, mechanisms, and timelines associated with protection of neurons via neurostimulation. We will combine optogenetics, electrophysiology, behavioral studies, and imaging to examine the factors influencing the function and health of neurons that release specific neurotransmitters, that often degenerate in patients with Parkinson's, such as dopamine. If understood, therapeutic targets to slow down disease progression of Parkinson's and prevent neuron degeneration could be identified.