Research

Dr. German Torres

Riland Hall, room 31
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
and Histology
Department of Neuroscience
516.686.3806
torresg@nyit.edu

Dr. Torres’ specific research interests are centered on the biological basis of mental disorders. Research efforts have largely been directed toward the study of schizophrenia and endogenous depression using multidisciplinary approaches. First, he is interested in how a transgenic mouse model (the Chakragati mutant) can be used as a powerful experimental tool for elucidating certain manifestations of schizophrenia. Much of his work in this area has entailed using pharmacological, anatomical and molecular approaches to study the loss of function of certain genes that have been disrupted by the insertion of the Ren-2d renin gene. Another focus of current research is related to understanding how certain brain proteins are modified by anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drug treatment. Experiments using this approach have already yielded information on the cellular mechanisms underlying the neurochemical basis of fluoxetine (Prozac), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and ketamine. Finally, he is also studying the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease and the biology of SIRT1, a protein deacetylase widely recognized for its link to calorie restriction and longevity. Dr. Torres has collaborative research with primates at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands.

 

Dr. Joerg Leheste

Riland Hall, room 023
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
and Histology
Department of Neuroscience
516.686.3764
jleheste@nyit.edu

Molecular Neuroscience
Overall, research in Dr. Leheste’s lab is focused on the intricate molecular mechanisms maintaining neuronal health over the course of a lifetime. Current investigations are conducted in human cells (in vitro) as well as in vertebrate animal models (in vivo) such as zebrafish (D. rerio), mice and rats. Furthermore, collaborative strategies are being developed which are designed to take our benchtop findings into the clinic where they can ultimately mature into powerful treatment options. His particular research interest lies in the identification of molecular mechanisms that can be manipulated providing a therapeutic approach for age-related neurodegeneration, such as the death of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in spontaneous Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The notion that health and longevity critically depend on lifestyle and diet seems trivial at first. Recent findings however have revealed that defined molecular pathways are critically influenced by those factors. The mammalian protein Sirtuin1 (SIRT1) was recently demonstrated at the center of the physiological effects of a calorie restriction (CR) diet. SIRT1 functions as NAD+ - dependent protein deacetylase capable of deacetylating lysine residues of well-known protein targets such as the tumor suppressor p53, the stress response transcription factor NFkappaB, and even nuclear core histones H3 and H4. SIRT1-dependent protein deacetylation is most frequently associated with reduced target protein activity and transcriptional repression. The implications of p53 and NFkappaB in the pathogenesis of spontaneous PD, as determined in human cell lines, in combination with a robust SIRT1 expression in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra in mice and rats make it tempting to speculate that SIRT1 manipulation might provide a therapeutic approach to prevent nigral DA neuron degeneration. Resveratrol, a phytochemical found in high abundance in the skin of grapes, has been identified as a powerful activator of SIRT1. Activation of the SIRT1 pathway via resveratrol mimics calorie restriction and has been demonstrated to efficiently extend overall health and lifespan across a wide range of eukaryotic species, including fish and surprisingly, even mice on a high-calorie diet. This circumstance is allowing us to evaluate the therapeutic value of resveratrol-mediated SIRT1 activation as treatment of PD-like DA neuron death in appropriate animal models and study the molecular consequences of such treatment.

 

Dr. Ely Rabin

Riland Hall, room 027
Assistant Professor
Biomedical Sciences
Basic Sciences
Department of Neuroscience
516.686.3941
erabin@nyit.edu

Dr. Rabin researches how tactile and proprioceptive cues are integrated with other sensory feedback in the control of posture and locomotion in individuals with Parkinson's disease and healthy populations. He will apply the results of this research to developing sensory aids for improving movement control in impaired populations. Tactile feedback is being tested in individuals with Parkinson’s disease to control posture and locomotion—particularly to maintain steady gate speed and to overcome bradykinesia (“freezing”) and improve gait initiation. Subjects walk while maintaining manual contact with a motorized handrail (actually a modified conveyer belt). Feedback from the external moving reference helps subjects overcome the tendency toward diminishing stride length. The goal of this research is to establish the usefulness of feedback of tactile cues and ultimately develop a motorized walker that can provide such cues in any setting. This area of inquiry also holds great basic science interest in better understanding the coordination of volitional motor control affected by Parkinson’s disease, and aspects of precision touch control governed by spinal reflexes not directly affected by Parkinson’s disease.

 

Dr. Raddy Ramos

Riland Hall, room 019B
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
and Histology
Department of Neuroscience
516.686.1318
rramos02@nyit.edu

The brain is made up of billions of neurons that function together to organize complex behaviors such as sensation & perception, learning & memory, and voluntary movement. Not surprisingly, dysfunction of neurons and the connections they make with one another underlies devastating neurological disorders like epilepsy, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Research in the laboratory of Dr. Ramos focuses on the anatomy and physiology of neurons in the adult and developing brain. Anatomical labeling techniques are used to detail the connections made by neurons and to examine how these connections change during development and as a result of disease or injury. Electrophysiological methods are used to examine the biophysical properties of individual neurons as well as neural networks. Together, these techniques are used in studies that seek to detail the diversity of neurons in the brain and gain greater understanding of neural function in the normal and diseased brain.

 

Dr. Isaac Kurtzer

Riland Hall, room 019A
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
and Histology
Department of Neuroscience
516.686.3913
ikurtzer@nyit.edu

The morning routine of rising out of bed, brushing our teeth, and reaching into the refrigerator exemplifies that a large part of daily living hinges on coordinated actions of the upper limb.  My contribution to this important topic explores how our nervous system accounts for the biomechanical complexities in controlling the multiple joints and muscles of the arm, how actions are sculpted by task goals and prior experience, and how primary motor cortex supports these capabilities.  My recent work has determined that stretch reflexes to a sudden perturbation of the arm, like catching a ball, integrate information across multiple joints and provide fast and cohesive reactions nearly comparable to prepared voluntary actions.  Future studies will examine how stretch reflexes and voluntary control of the arm are altered in Parkinson’s disease.