U of M Medical School Hires Dr. Prakash Kara to the Optical and Brain Science Medical Discovery Team

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Naomi McDonald, Director of Communications
January 30, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (January 30, 2017) – The University of Minnesota Medical School is proud to announce Prakash Kara, Ph.D. has accepted a faculty position, and is now the first member of the Optical and Brain Science Medical Discovery Team (MDT).

“Dr. Kara is a phenomenal researcher and will have a significant role in the Medical School’s effort to revolutionize our understanding of the brain,” said Brooks Jackson, Dean of the Medical School and Vice President for the Health Sciences. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Kara’s expertise on this critical initiative.”

Kara comes to the University of Minnesota from the Medical University of South Carolina where he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. He is renowned for his work in visual perception, optical imaging, and the field of neurovascular coupling—which refers to the relationship between local neural activity and subsequent changes in blood flow. His major discoveries appear in several issues of the most prestigious scientific journals including Nature and Science. For example, he co-authored the first study that used two-photon calcium imaging of adjacent neuronal cell bodies with synthetic dyes to map sensory function. Moreover, his recent approach using genetically encoded sensors have revealed the spatial limits of neurovascular coupling and will further be instrumental towards the imaging of neural activity across multiple brain regions with single-cell resolution.

“The Optical and Brain Science Medical Discovery Team is the perfect platform to continue to apply and further my research,” said Prakash Kara, Ph.D. “The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) has been at the forefront of developing methods that provide us with functional and connectivity information on the entire human brain. I am excited to contribute new optical imaging approaches and be a part of this incredibly innovative team.”

Kara holds a B.S. and M.S in Physiology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and earned a Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) along with a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He has current collaborations with University researcher Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, on an NIH Brian Initiative grant centered on developing and applying new tools and technologies for revolutionizing our understanding of the brain.

“The Optical Imaging and Brain Science Medical Discovery Team will develop and apply innovative technologies for acquiring fundamental insights about how the nervous system functions in health and disease,” said Tucker LeBien, Vice Dean for Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “As a member of this team, Dr. Kara’s research will have a significant role in diagnosing, treating, and potentially curing diseases and disorders that devastate so many lives.”

Medical Discovery Teams (MDT) were created in 2014 with the support of Governor Dayton and legislature to increase national preeminence of the University of Minnesota Medical School, as well as, achieve the state's goals of improving patient and population health, lowering costs, and improving health care experiences.

In addition to the Optical Imaging and Brain Science, the University of Minnesota has three additional Medical Discovery Teams focused on Addiction, the Biology of Aging, and Rural and American Indian Health Equity.  

About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.