John David Elsworth PhD
Senior Research Scientist in Psychiatry
Dopamine; reactive oxygen species; neurotrophic factors; cell transplantation; striatum; substantia nigra; prefrontal cortex; Parkinson’s disease; schizophrenia
Dysfunction of brain dopamine neurons is critically involved in the pathology of several neurologic and psychiatric disorders, most notably the motor and cognitive deficits in Parkinson’s disease. Laboratory research is focused on understanding the basis for the particular susceptibility of dopamine neurons to damage, and devising strategies for protecting, repairing or replacing these cells.
Extensive Research Description
Dysfunction of the population of
dopamine neurons originating in the midbrain is implicated in several psychiatric
or neurological disorders, notably Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. Research revolves around the development, dysfunction, and demise of brain dopamine neurons.A major focus of investigations
is the development of dopamine neurons, including apoptotic natural cell death,
and the mechanisms of differential susceptibility of dopamine neurons to oxidative stress at the
developing and mature stages of life.
Other research is focused on repair of the damaged nigrostriatal dopamine system, using strategies such as stem cell implants, tissue transplants and neurotrophic factor gene therapy, with direct relevance to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Another field of research is investigation of the regulation of dopamine neurons innervating the prefrontal cortex, which are critical to the executive functions of this brain region. Experimental restoration of normal dopamine transmission in the prefrontal cortex would enable treatment of cognitive deficits that are characteristic of Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.
Research approaches are oriented around biochemical, immunohistochemical and pharmacological techniques in the laboratory.