Neuroscience Program Faculty Members

​​​​Gary Dunbar, Ph.D.

Dr. Dunbar’s recent research is focused on testing the efficacy of stem cell transplants and pharmacological treatments for neuropathological and behavioral deficits in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Dr. Dunbar’s research has been supported by awards from both private and public agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
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Richard Backs, Ph.D.​

Dr. Backs defines his research focus as the psychophysiology of attention in human performance. It emphasizes the applied aspects of attention theory, and his recent studies have examined autonomic (electrocardiographic, impedance cardiographic, and pulmonary) and central (EEG and event-related potential) measures concurrently during focused and divided attention tasks in the laboratory and in the driving simulator. Dr. Backs has adopted a cognitive/energetic perspective to account for how cognition is affected by emotion and environmental and task stressors. He also investigates aging affects on the psychophysiology of attention, especially during driving. 
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Ute Hochgeschwender, M.D.

Dr. Hochgeschwender's research interests are centered on developing and refining methods for manipulation of neuronal populations in behaving model animals and applying them towards neurological and psychiatric disorders.  Our approaches involve molecular biology, viral vectors, bioluminescence, optogenetics, electrophysiology, and animal behavior.
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Kenneth Jenrow, Ph.D.

Dr. Jenrow's research interests focus on the effects of neuroinflammation on neuronal and cognitive function.  His current research investigates the effects of neuroinflammation on gene and protein expression involved in synaptic plasticity and cognitive function, particularly as they relate to memory consolidation.  His research has been supported by numerous internal grants at Henry Ford Hospital and the National Institutes of Health via the Center for Countermeasures against Radiation. 

Yannick Marchalant, Ph.D.

Dr. Marchalant's research is focused on normal and pathological brain aging. He is in particular looking at the influence of neuroinflammation on normal aging, on the onset of Alzheimer's disease and on w​ays to modulate neruoinflammatory processes to preserve normal brain functions. 
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Kevin Park, Ph.D.

In pathological context, the cell cycle is commonly associated with cancer biology. However, an increasing number of research findings suggest a potential role of neuronal cell cycle dysregulation in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. In our lab we are utilizing our unique mouse model of conditional neuronal cell cycle activation to help identify pathogenic mechanisms related to autism and Alzheimer’s disease. We also utilize a variety of genetic mouse models and molecular genetic methods in our preclinical research.
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Mark Reilly, Ph.D.

Dr. Reilly’s research interests involve the experimental analysis of human and nonhuman behavior, operant/respondent conditioning, behavioral pharmacology and substance abuse. His research interests are eclectic but strive to elucidate basic principles of behavior. He has conducted research on schedules of reinforcement, behavioral variability, drug discrimination, drug tolerance and conditioned reinforcement. His current research focuses on three areas; the motivational properties of response effort or work, the contributions of classical and operant conditioning to impulsivity, and the environmental factors that establish alcohol as a reinforcer. Mathematical modeling of the behavior and its controlling variables is inherent to his research program. 
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Julien Rossignol, Ph.D.

Julien Rossignol received bachelor of science degrees in cellular biology and biochemistry from the University of Nantes, France. He received a master's degree in molecular biology and biophysics from the University of Orleans, France and a Ph. D. in neuroscience from the University of Nantes, France. His graduate work involved studies on the therapeutic effect of adult stem cell transplantations in Huntington's disease rat model. Following post-doctoral fellowships at INSERM U643 in Nantes, France and in the Neuroscience Program and the Department of Psychology at Central Michigan University where he continued his work with stem cells as a potential cure for neurodegenerative diseases. As a faculty member in the College of Medicine Rossignol is conducting his research in the Field Neurosciences Institute Laboratory for Restorative Neurology.

Dr. Rossignol's present laboratory research is to determine the best adult stem cell candidate to transplant in the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases. His group studied specifically mesenchymal stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Previous work has shown that mesenchymal stem cells slowed the deficits in a transgenic rat model of Huntington's disease but failed to create new neurons. Induced pluripotent stem cells have the ability to become neurons and may prove to have greater therapeutic utility. 
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Shasta Sabo, Ph.D.

Dr. Sabo's overall goal is to understand (1) mechanisms of formation of neural circuits that are essential for perception and behavior, and (2) how perturbations in neuronal development, especially those related to neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, affect the composition and function of neural circuits. 

Our primary approach is to use fluorescence imaging, often in living neurons, to study development of synapses and neurons in real-time. Time-lapse imaging is powerful since it allows us to simultaneously study spatial and temporal aspects of development. We complement our imaging with molecular genetics and pharmacological tools, in order to manipulate the expression and function of individual proteins and neuronal activity during development.
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Michael Sandstrom, Ph.D.

Dr. Sandstrom uses techniques of single-unit neurophysiological recording and microdialysis to explore contributions of neurotransmitters to central nervous system function. He currently explores neurophysiological mechanisms underlying behavioral disruptions in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington’s disease. Dr. Sandstrom focuses research primarily on awake and freely moving animal models. 

Naveen Sharma, Ph.D.

Dr. Sharma joined CMU in 2013 as a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences. He earned undergraduate degrees at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (B.PHE. – Exercise Physiology, B.Sc. – Biology). He received his graduate degrees (M.S. – Exercise Physiology, Ph.D. – Nutrition) from Case Western Reserve University in the laboratory of Dr. William Stanley. He completed post-doctoral training in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Cartee.

Dr. Sharma's research interests include the molecular processes that mediate age-associated insulin resistance, a primary defect that has been associated with several debilitating pathophysiologies including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegeneration. Additionally, he is interested in how dietary and/or exercise interventions are able improve these conditions in both adult and older populations.
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Reid Skeel, Ph.D.

Dr. Skeel’s clinical and research interests focus on neurophysiological assessment. His clinical efforts center on providing functional application of neuropsychological assessement. His research interests are focused on examining variables that affect the ecological validity of neuropsychological tests. Examples of specific projects being conducted in his lab include examining the relationship between cognitive functioning and medication adherence, the impact of anxiety on n​europsychological performance, exploring how newer measures of executive functioning and decision making are related to behavior, cognitive effects of CABG surgery, and detection of sub-optimal effort during testing.
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Michelle Steinhilb, Ph.D.

Dr. Steinhilb’s graduate studies focused on the cellular trafficking and metabolism of the Alzheimer’s disease Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) using cell culture models. She continued to study neurodegenerative disease during her postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she used the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a genetic model system. Her research interests include molecular genetics, cellular and molecular biology, and neurodegeneration. 
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Ksenia Ustinova, Ph.D

Dr. Ustinova’s lab covers motor control and learning, rehabilitation of patients with neurological diseases including stroke, spinocerebellar ataxia, and Parkinson’s disease. The mechanisms of motor control and learning and their disruption in patients with different neurological diseases; the recovery and compensation of sensorimotor functions after neurological injury with the use of new rehabilitation techniques including virtual reality and biofeedback.
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Endowed Faculty Positions

E. Malcolm Field and Gary Leo Dunbar Endowed Chair of Neuroscience

The E. Malcolm Field and Gary Leo Dunbar Endowed Chair of Neuroscience was established in 2010 by E. Malcolm Field, M.D. of the Field Neurosciences Institute to honor and further the work of Gary L. Dunbar, Ph.D., '76, '77, and to recognize the progress of the CMU-FNI collaborative research efforts to find effective treatments for millions of people suffering from devastating injuries and diseases of CNU (Central Nervous System) injuries.
The endowment will be used to support Dr. Gary Dunbar's collaborative research with FNI for the remainder of his career at CMU, at which point the endowed chair will be conferred onto another CMU neuroscientist within the Psychology Department, engaged in collaborative research with FNI and/or who has a proven commitment to research in the area of restorative neurology or functional recovery following CNS injury.
Gary Dunbar
Office: Health Professions Bldg. 2182
Phone: (989) 774-3282

John G. Kulhavi Endowed Professorship in Neuroscience

The John G. Kulhavi Endowed Professorship in Neuroscience was established in 2004 through a generous gift from John G. Kulhavi. The gift is used to support an endowed professorship in neuroscience, which will be held by a high-profile neuroscientist who will help lead the neuroscience program and the BRAIN Center to achieve high levels of research and instructional excellence.
The Kulhavi Endowed Professorship is held by Dr. Gary Dunbar, who began his term in 2004. The professorship shall be given to a faculty member for an initial term of five years, after which a review period will determine if that occupant shall be reappointed or whether the search process should begin again. After a faculty member serves two consecutive terms, a new selection process will begin. The occupant of the chair may be considered as a candidate for one more five-year term.
Gary Dunbar
Office: Health Professions Bldg. 2182
Phone: (989) 774-3282