NU Named Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Research
With a $5.5 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Northwestern has become the first Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research in the Midwest. Directed by D. James Surmeier, PhD, Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, the center’s research focuses on the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the motor and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Although several brain regions are affected by PD, the most devastating effects are in the basal ganglia, which are linked to movement control and learning. “The central goal of the Northwestern University Udall Center is to determine how neural activity in the basal ganglia circuits is altered in PD,” says Dr. Surmeier, “with a subsequent goal being development of new therapies to normalize this activity and alleviate PD symptoms.”
The center includes four project teams and a molecular biology core facility. Dr. Surmeier leads the team studying neurons in the globus pallidus. Mark D. Bevan, PhD, associate professor of physiology, heads a team studying neurons in the subthalamic nucleus. The third team focuses on communication between the globus pallidus and subthalamic neurons, while the fourth team’s aim is to generate computational models of how brain circuits interact in PD. Heading the latter teams are researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis and University of Texas at San Antonio, respectively.
Named in honor of former Congressman Morris K. Udall, who died in 1998 after a long battle with PD, the center is one of 12 in the nation designated by the NIH’s National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke.