The University of Toledo | Studying Minds

Studying Minds

Developing New Therapies for Brain Disorders

There is much we still don’t know about the brain to effectively treat heartbreaking disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, addiction and more. Researchers at UToledo are working to better understand how the brain responds to toxins and other influences to create better therapeutics for a variety of diseases.

Isaac Schiefer, Ph.D., examining tanks of fish in a laboratory.

Using translucent zebrafish, Isaac Schiefer, Ph.D., a professor of medicinal and biological chemistry and director of the Center for Drug Design and Development in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is studying in real time the effects of psychoactive drugs like bath salts. His goal with the research funded with a $2.65 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse is to combat their toxicity and potentially identify future therapeutic uses for depression, post-traumatic stress or other brain disorders.

Isaac Schiefer, Ph.D., holding up glowsticks in a darkened laboratory with other glowing chemicals nearby.

Youssef Sari, Ph.D., a professor in the UToledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has dedicated his career to studying how alcohol and other drugs affect the brain, with a goal of finding new therapeutics that can aid in recovery. His latest research funded with a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is to develop a drug that could reduce cravings and lessen withdrawal symptoms when chronic drinkers attempt to get sober. It focuses on the role of glutamate transmission as a potential drug target.

Youssef Sari, Ph.D., stationed by a microscope.

In response to surging interest in the field of brain research, UToledo has launched a new undergraduate neuroscience degree that is a joint effort between the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Students have a unique opportunity to learn how the brain works and also train alongside established biomedical researchers who are working to solve pressing questions about complicated brain disorders.

A blue-colored grid of brain scan images.

After all of Nicholas Henkel’s living grandparents passed away from dementia in the last five years, his research on Alzheimer’s disease has become far more meaningful. The doctoral student in the dual M.D./Ph.D. program was recently awarded a highly competitive F30 fellowship grant from the National Institute on Aging in recognition of his studies of the progression of Alzheimer’s that looks at the role of abnormal metabolic signaling in the brain.

Nicholas Henkel standing in a laboratory Nicholas Henkel standing in a laboratory

How does our brain form, store and recall memories? Priyo Goswamee, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Neurosciences, is using new technology to record live images of neuron activity in animal models to identify specific brain cells that store memories. The goal is to understand how brain cells work together to form memory and use this knowledge to improve memory function in Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

Priyo Goswamee, Ph.D., holding a device in a glass-protected laboratory chamber

Jacob Connolly, who recently graduated with a bioengineering degree from UToledo, earned the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship in recognition of his undergraduate research on neurodegeneration and how an antioxidant enzyme the body already produces may have protective functions in decreasing inflammation in the brain. The scholarship is one of the country’s oldest and most competitive honors in the fields of science and mathematics, from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation.

Jacob Connolly standing outdoors at UTMC

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Last Updated: 3/1/23