Brian M. Sweis

Brian SweisEmail: sweis001@umn.edu

Entering Class:
2012

Education:

Loyola University Chicago
Biology, Psychology majors; Neuroscience, Philosophy minors
B.S., 2012

Honors and Awards:

  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Predoctoral MD/PhD Fellows, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017-2021
  • MnDrive Neuromodulation Research Fellowship Grant, "Optogenetic modulation of corticostriatal decision-making circuitry in mouse models of addiction" (2015-16)

MSTP Student Governance:

  • Student Advisory Committee 2017-18

Thesis Advisors: Mark Thomas, Ph.D. and David Redish, Ph.D.

Hobbies and Interests:

Born and raised on the southside of Chicago, Brian grew up a devout Michael Jordan fan, and thus, has embraced basketball as his sport of choice. Off the court, he trained in the martial arts, earning a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. Brian spends his outdoor time trail running (one marathon was enough), has recently taken up road cycling, and has evolved into an expert jump-rope'er. A fellow MSTP student introduced Brian to CorePower yoga - which he has since welcomed as a wonderful de-stressing outlet from school and work, picking up practicing acro-yoga along the way. Cooking, fancy cooking at that, has served as an excellent creative outlet on a similar token. Other hobbies of Brian include exploring his artistic interests thorough drawing, creating digital artwork, and reminiscing about his past experiences in filmmaking, competing in film festivals on the international level, which he hopes to pick back up again soon!

Career and scientific interests:

Brian's research interests lie at the intersection of affective, behavioral, and cognitive neuroscience and neuroendocrinology, coming from a training background in studying the effects of stress on the body, brain, and behavior particularly in studying anxiety and memory in animals alongside his work on human cognition. Currently, his basic science and clinical research interests have evolved into one at the intersection of neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry in investigating the neural basis of neuropsychiatric disorders at the level of understanding the neuronal circuitry governing complex higher-order cognition. Under the guidance of his research and clinical mentors across the neuroscience disciplines, Brian has taken a recent sub-interest interest related to his thesis research and clinical interests in an emerging field at the intersection of neuroscience, medicine, and law coined "NeuroLaw." Upon graduating from the U o fM MSTP, Brian aims to pursue translational medical research and fellowship training within the realm of academic medicine in a joint neurology-psychiatry dual residency.

Thesis Research

Cocaine addiction is a detrimental mental health dysfunction that drives aberrant goal-directed behavior. Data from animal models indicate that repeated cocaine exposure induces synaptic plasticity in neural circuits underlying reward and motivation. These circuits, particularly the prefrontal inputs to the ventral striatum, are also thought to play important, though ill-defined, roles in decision-making information processing. Animal models of decision-making behavior have evolved over recent years to better approximate human aspects of deliberative decision- making. In vivo electrophysiology work pioneered by the Redish Lab allows us to study, in rats, cognitive mechanisms dissociable in space and time underlying neuroeconomic decision-making strategies in a novel spatial navigation task. Having recently translated this task from rats into mice, I now have access to various Thomas Lab mouse models of drug addiction equipped with the ability to apply optogenetic interventions, that is, state-of-the-art genetic insertion of light-sensitive ion channels into the brain, allowing us to manipulate with fiber optic lasers decision-making and reward circuitry as well as potentially reverse drug-induced adaptations in order to prevent relapse.

Thus, I propose (Aim 1) to investigate the effects of chronic cocaine exposure, as well as withdrawal and “relapse,” on complex neuroeconomic decision-making behavior; and, (Aim 2) to use mouse optogenetics to interrogate common neural circuitry shared at the intersection of addiction and decision-making.

In addition to translating research across rodent animal models, the work proposed here is part of a larger collaboration translating this decision-making approach into healthy human and addiction patient populations coupled with functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and deep-brain stimulation approaches. Of these collaborators, psychiatrist Dr. Kelvin Lim and neurologist Dr. Jerrold Vitek are serving roles not only as research mentors to me, but also as physician-scientist clinical mentors throughout the remainder of my graduate and medical training. Together with my advisors, we will develop a translational research program seeing my thesis work through into the clinic during my proposed time here. This approach has substantial promise for advancing our understanding of how drugs of abuse like cocaine exert their addictive effects, how the brain is wired during healthy and dysfunctional decision-making, and how potential future treatments for addiction, as well as other neuropsychiatric disorders, can be better developed.

Publications (pubmed)

Bachour SP, Hevesi M, Bachour O, Sweis BM, Mahmoudi J, Brekke JA, Divani AA. Comparisons between Garcia, Modo, and Longa rodent stroke scales: Optimizing resource allocation in rat models of focal middle cerebral artery occlusion. J Neurol Sci. 2016 May 15;364:136-40.

Sweis BM, Bachour SP, Brekke JA, Gewirtz JC, Sadeghi-Bazargani H, Hevesi M, Divani AA. A modified beam-walking apparatus for assessment of anxiety in a rodent model of blast traumatic brain injury. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Jan 1;296:149-56.

Sweis BM, Bachour SP, Brekke JA, Gewirtz JC, Sadeghi-Bazargani H, Hevesi M, Divani AA. A modified beam-walking apparatus for assessment of anxiety in a rodent model of blast traumatic brain injury. Behav Brain Res. 2015 Sep 11;296:149-156.

For work prior to entering the Program:

Sweis BM, Veverka KK, Dhillon ES, Urban JH, Lucas LR. Individual Differences in the Effects of Chronic Stress on Memory: Behavioral and Neurochemical Correlates of Resiliency. Neuroscience. 2013 Aug 29;246:142-59.

*Sweis, BM*
, Bharani, K.L., Morrison, R.G. Time course of inhibitory control during analogical reasoning: An event-related potential approach. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Peer-reviewed paper in Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX, August 2012. *co-first author