Neuroscience

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Through a bench-to-bedside approach, our brain researchers develop treatments and preventative methods that improve the lives of people with neurological conditions.

For every patient we treat at the University of Minnesota, our neurosurgeons go above and beyond to solve complex medical problems and improve lives.

The brain is one of the most complicated organs in the human body, constantly active and directing our thoughts, actions, and feelings. Our scientists and physicians collaborate to explore how the brain functions and what goes wrong in neurological disorders.

We identify stem cell therapies that could treat brain or spinal cord injury, and utilize deep brain stimulation—which uses electrical stimulation in deep brain structures to modify brain activity and improve symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

We investigate how genes impact susceptibility for neurological disorders and study whole network brain functions using the latest imaging techniques. As we continue to refine our understanding of the brain, our researchers hope to pinpoint the causes of these conditions and develop more cutting edge approaches to their treatment.

A culture of innovation

Creativity is crucial in medical research. It takes innovative methods to treat patients, because each condition is unique to each person.

That’s the approach neurosurgeons Andrew Grande, MD, and Bharathi Jagadeesan, MD, took when they treated two cases of a rare brain condition in 2013. Over a six-month period, two girls came to the Masonic Children’s Hospital with dural sinus malformation, which there are only about 100 recorded cases of in the world. The condition causes blood in the brain to flow into a cavity, forming a pouch in the head. Thinking on their feet, Jagadeesan and Grande used super glue to stop the bleeding. Their creativity saved both girls’ lives.

For every patient we treat at the University of Minnesota, our neurosurgeons go above and beyond to solve complex medical problems and improve lives.

 

Finding new treatments for Parkinson’s disease and other motor conditions

“Our goal is to understand what’s happening in the brain when these conditions are present, determine what areas could be malfunctioning, and how to devise methods that can change this activity on a consistent and effective basis.”
—Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD

A Parkinson’s diagnosis doesn’t need to be debilitating. 

That’s what McKnight Professor Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, hopes to achieve through his research in deep brain stimulation (DBS), which can greatly alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. 

Vitek, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology, is internationally renowned for his work pioneering DBS. With more than 25 years of NIH-funded research, and extensive experience as a primary investigator on clinical trials, Vitek’s work with Parkinson’s spans far and wide. In fact, one of his early publications on DBS has been cited more than 500 times. 

“Our goal is to understand what’s happening in the brain when these conditions are present, determine what areas could be malfunctioning, and how to devise methods that can change this activity on a consistent and effective basis.”

Improving care for mental health conditions

Millions of Americans face mental illness. Beyond the emotional ups and downs that everyone experiences, mental illnesses are medical conditions that change how we think and feel. With treatment, many people realize their full potential, participating in work, family life, and their communities.

The University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry is conducting research to improve and discover treatments for people with mental health conditions. Research is focused on neuroscience to understand what goes wrong in the brain; behavioral science to understand human behavior; and genetics to understand the very makeup and phenomena of a human being.

Through MnDrive Brain Conditions, we are investigating disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.

Neuromodulation, a therapeutic intervention that changes (or modulates) the activity of brain circuits to decrease symptoms and restore normal functions, is being explored in research and used in clinical practice.

Neuroscience research across the U

Researchers specialize in studying the molecular and genetic makeup of the brain.


Working closely with the neuroscience and neurosurgery departments, our neurologists study the functional capabilities of the brain, and interventions to inhibit or improve them.


UMN neurosurgeons aim to improve and broaden treatments for recovery from various forms of brain or nervous system injury, brain tumors and neurological conditions.


Conducts research that leads to a fundamental understanding of psychiatric disease and to the development of new and safe treatments for these diseases, serves patients and their families through inpatient and outpatient clinical care, and provides training from the first year of medical school to the completion of post residency fellowships.


The department specializes in neuro-visual diseases like macular degeneration, blindness, cornea transplantation and oculoplastics.


The institute plays an integral role in bringing scientific neurological findings from the lab to applications for patient care.


Bridging neuroscience with engineering, researchers develop new neurotechnologies like innovations in brain-machine interface and deep brain stimulation.


Leveraging the strengths of several disciplines such as neuroscience, neuroimaging, linguistics, natural language and speech processing, psychometrics, pharmacogenomics, pharmacometrics and informatics in order to guide new drug development, enhance the ability to personalize medication therapy, and examine the ethical and public policy implications resulting from the use of cognitive-altering agents in pediatric and adult populations.


Aiming to relieve the suffering caused by Alzheimer's disease through basic, translational, and clinical research on memory disorders. Working towards safe and affordable prevention strategies and comprehensive care and support for people with memory problems and their families


Studying the brain's ability to reorganize and form new connections in either desirable or undesirable ways due to injury, rehabilitation and learning, or secondary to a disease.


Created in 2003 to facilitate the development of clinical, translational, and basic research on muscular dystrophy, to enhance and support clinical care of patients with muscular dystrophy, to improve educational experience for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students interested in the fields of basic and clinical muscle research, and to increase interaction and support from the regional community of patients and families concerned about muscular dystrophy.

Learn more about the University’s work in brain sciences across the health sciences.

brain cells

Recent publications

  • Ebner TJ, Hewitt A, Popa LA. 2015. Changes in Purkinje cell simple spike encoding of reach kinematics during adaption to a mechanical perturbation. The Journal of Neuroscience 35(3):1106-1124.
  • Holt AB, Netoff TI. 2014. Origins and suppression of oscillations in a computational model of Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Computational Neuroscience 37(3):505-21.
  • Steiner A, Redish D. 2014. Behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of regret in rat decision-making on a neuroeconomic task. Nature Neuroscience 17(7):995–1002.

Grants and awards

  • Harry T. Orr, PhD, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2014)
  • Sylvain Lesne, PhD, Neuroscience, awarded $1.8 M NIH grant for neuroscience research (2014)
  • University of Minnesota was named one of five clinical sites for the BioFIND study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (2013)
  • Karen H. Ashe, MD, PhD, Neuroscience, elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2009)
  • Apostolos Georgopoulos, MD, PhD, Neuroscience, elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2004)