Understanding the mechanisms of experience and injury based cortical plasticity

Strokes are caused by the interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels to the brain. This sudden loss of brain function can damage the brain centers that sense or move parts our body, profoundly impacting both physical and mental functions. As a result, stroke is the number one cause of acquired disability in adults around the world. Some stroke survivors are able to recover more quickly and more completely than others. Although recovery is influenced by the location of damage in the brain and the extent of the damage, recovery is also influenced by the brain's innate ability to initiate repair and re-wire damaged blood vessels and neuronal circuits in surviving regions. At the present time, we do not yet know why this re-wiring takes place in some patients but not others, nor do we know how to manipulate this process. What we do know is that this repair process can vary between patients and that some patients, such as diabetics, have a poorer prognosis following stroke.

Dr. Craig Brown's lab will use advanced imaging technologies to assess brain structure and function to understand how the brain is able to repair itself following a stroke and to understand why this is such a variable process between different patients. His research program is focused on three distinct yet complimentary lines of research, including: 1) understanding the impact of diabetes on recovery from stroke; 2) using electrical nerve stimulation to improve stroke recovery; and 3) elucidating the cellular/molecular mechanisms of learning or experience-based brain "plasticity".

As a result of this innovative research, Dr. Brown hopes to better understand the brain's plasticity associated with normal (learning/memory) and pathological (diabetes/stroke) brain states. His intent is that this work will stimulate new therapies for improving brain function both in normal situations and after stroke, particularly in patients who have previously had a poor prognosis.