August 24, 2022

Looking at Heersink’s four new research focus areas, Part 4: Brain Health and Disease Across the Lifespan

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This month, we have featured each of the Heersink School of Medicine’s new research focus areas, established earlier this year. Each area will help shape the future of research at our Academic Medical Center.

The areas we have covered so far include D-TECH—Disruptive Technology Empowering Precision Health,  Health Equity, and I-4ward  (Infection, Inflammation, Immunity, and Immuno-Therapy).

This week, our last focus area looks at Brain Health and Disease across the Lifespan.

Focus area: Brain Health and Disease across the Lifespan

Brain development is critical for how individuals learn and interact with the world. 

Led by Jeremy Day, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and director of the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, this focus area will transform understanding of brain development, aging, and health, and leverage knowledge to improve treatments for brain diseases. 

Impacting Alabama’s health

With an aging population, overdose epidemic, and high prevalence of factors that contribute to chronic diseases, Alabamians are more vulnerable to neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric conditions. As such, treatments that restore quality of life to patients suffering from these conditions are likely to have enormous impact both locally and nationally. 

“The neurosciences are currently experiencing groundbreaking technical and conceptual breakthroughs that are leading to rapid advances in basic and translational research,” explained Day. “Given that brain function is critical for almost all aspects of human health, understanding how the nervous system is dysregulated across disease states is likely to have a transformative impact on future treatments for neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric conditions.”

Four focus area goals

For this Brain Health and Disease across the Lifespan, researchers and scientists will pursue four interrelated goals to transform understanding and future treatments: 

1. Understand brain disease states, with specific focus on areas of critical need such as aging and neurodegeneration, addiction, and chronic pain. 
2. Identify genetic, molecular, and cellular factors that participate in normal brain function, and are disrupted in brain disease states. 
3. Harness advanced neurotechnology to design, develop, and validate neuromodulation strategies or pharmacotherapies to treat brain diseases.
4. Transform care of brain-related diseases at UAB and across the nation by leveraging precision medicine, informatics, and novel therapies to inform patient care.

A transformative future 

This focus area will ultimately accelerate the pace of scientific discovery at the Heersink School of Medicine by promoting excellence in fundamental, translational, and clinical neuroscience research. 

“I am excited to lead this focus area because it reflects the broad diversity and collaborative spirit of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research at UAB,” said Day. 

“I am honored to be able to work alongside so many talented researchers, educators, and clinicians to help grow the UAB neuroscience community and capitalize on our potential to become international leaders in this area.”