Jullie W. Pan MD, PhD

Associate Professor (Adjunct) of Neurosurgery and Associate Professor of Neurology

Research Interests

Metabolic physiology of brain; neurotransmission and brain function; development and implementation of imaging in humans at ultra-high field (7Tesla); metabolic pathophysiology of epilepsy; clinical epilepsy; epilepsy imaging; outcome studies


Research Summary

Our group is interested in how in vivo human brain metabolism of glutamate, GABA and bioenergetics influences brain function in health and disease. In this highly inter-disciplinary work we develop and implement ultra-high field (7T) human MR spectroscopy and imaging, with a strong belief that innovation in measurement leads the way in scientific and clinical advancement and interpretation. We hypothesize that such metabolic imaging information can help better understand epilepsy and other disorders, e.g., where and how seizures start, the metabolic nature of the injury and how it may regionally vary.

Extensive Research Description

Our group is interested in how in vivo human brain metabolism of glutamate, GABA and bioenergetics influences brain function in health and disease. In this highly inter-disciplinary work we develop and implement ultra-high field (7T) human MR spectroscopy and imaging, with a strong belief that innovation in measurement leads the way in scientific advancement and interpretation. In close integration with our physiological and clinical interests, our group has established novel RF detector systems with non-iterative shim technology to take advantage of the increased signal to noise and chemical shift dispersion available at 7T, thereby enabling sensitive and accurate spectroscopic imaging of critical targets such as GABA, glutamate, glutamine, lactate, N-acetyl aspartate, creatine and glutathione in large regions in the human brain.

Physiologically and pathophysiologically, there is abundant animal and histological evidence showing dysfunction of GABA neurotransmission and mitochondrial function in epilepsy. Translating this work into the human brain for scientific and clinical goals however is obviously challenging, but is a goal for which the MR spectroscopic imaging avenue provides a unique and critical view. We hypothesize that regional abnormalities in glutamate, GABA and mitochondrial function are linked with brain dysfunction and seizures in epilepsy such that the in vivo spectroscopic imaging of such molecules can be highly informative for localization of seizure onset and for better defining the metabolic physiology of healthy vs. focal vs. generalized epilepsy. Our measurements, taken from the thalamus, basal ganglia, insula and hippocampi show widespread abnormalities consistent with epilepsy being a network wide brain disorder. Finally, we hypothesize such aberrancies in these metabolic targets can be informative for a number of still challenging brain disorders such as PTSD and related problems.


Selected Publications

  • Pan JW, Zaveri HP, Spencer DD, Hetherington HP, Spencer SS. Intracranial EEG power and metabolism in human epilepsy. Epilepsy Res. 2009 Aug 19. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Pan JW, Cavus I, Kim J, Hetherington HP, Spencer DD. Hippocampal extracellular GABA correlates with metabolism in human epilepsy. Metab Brain Dis. 2008 Dec;23(4):457-68. Epub 2008 Sep 18.
  • Cavus I, Pan JW, Hetherington HP, Abi-Saab W, Zaveri HP, Vives K, Krystal J, Spencer S, Spencer DD. Decreased Hippocampal volume on MRI is related to increased extracellular glutamate in MTLE patients. In press, Epilepsia 2007
  • Hetherington HP, Kuzniecky RI, Vives K, Devinsky O, Pacia S, Luciano D, Vasquez B, Haut S, Spencer DD and Pan JW. A subcortical network of dysfunction in TLE measured by MR spectroscopy. In press, Neurology 2007
  • Pan JW, Venkatraman T, Vives K, Spencer DD. Quantitative glutamate spectroscopic imaging of the human hippocampus. NMR in Biomedicine 2006 19(2):209-216

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