News

4.23.2014

Neurology Receives Major Grant for Stroke Research

The Miller School’s Department of Neurology is one of three institutions selected to participate in a collaborative research program to develop groundbreaking new methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating stroke, the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Funding began this month, and the department will receive $2.4 million over four years.

The department, along with its counterparts at the University of California at Los Angeles and University of Colorado at Denver, will be home to the newest American Stroke Association center funded by the Henrietta B. and Frederick H. Bugher Foundation. They will be known officially as the American Stroke Association-Bugher Centers of Excellence in Stroke Collaborative Research.

The Miller School center will focus on approaches to improving cognition after stroke through two related collaborative translational projects. Cognition deficits frequently lead to reduced quality of life, and the results from these studies will help develop new approaches for improving cognition after stroke.

Ralph Sacco, M.D., M.S., professor of neurology and Olemberg Chair of Neurology, will be director of the new center. “While we have made tremendous strides regarding stroke prevention and major advances regarding acute stroke therapy, our ability to intervene in the post-stroke period and influence outcomes is limited,” he said. “Becoming an ASA-Bugher Center of Excellence provides an excellent venue for addressing this issue in collaboration with other leading institutions and creates a platform for training the next generation of stroke scientists.”

Clinton Wright, M.D., associate professor of neurology and Scientific Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, will lead a study of the effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on cognitive performance. “The goal will be to observe if non-invasive exercises enhance cognitive functions and neuroplasticity during stroke rehabilitation in order to improve quality of life of stroke survivors,” he said, noting that the award will provide a significant opportunity to identify strategies to mitigate the impact of strokes on cognitive impairment.

A second complementary project will use animal stroke models to evaluate physical exercise, enriched environments and enhancements with pharmacological agents. Miguel Perez-Pinzon, Ph.D., professor of neurology and neuroscience, Vice Chair for Basic Science and Director of the Cerebral Vascular Disease Research Center, will be the leader of that project. The research will explore the efficacy of an enriched environment and physical exercise on specific cognitive outcomes after stroke, and will help determine the role of pharmacological enhancements with some novel agents. These translational studies will be informative and address evidence gaps in animal stroke recovery research, setting the stage for new human trials.

Other Miller School researchers who will be part of the team include Kunjan R. Dave, Ph.D., co-investigator, research associate professor of neurology; Chuanhui Dong, M.D., Ph.D., biostatistician, research assistant professor of neurology; Bonnie Levin, Ph.D., co-investigator, professor of neurology; John Lewis, Ph.D., co-investigator, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; David Loewenstein, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., Center Fellowship Training Director, professor of neurology and public health sciences; and Edison Sabala, M.P.H., M.B.A., collaborative administrative director.

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