2019 CEREBBRAL Pilot Grant Awardees

Project Title:  Pre-clinical modeling of overlapping mechanisms and pathologies between Parkinson's disease and alcohol use disorders

PI:  Dr. Julia Chester

CO-PI:  Dr. Jason Cannon

Project Abstract:  Epidemiological data suggest a link between Parkinson's diesease (PD) and alcohol use disorders (AUDs).  Voluntary alcohol consumption and paraquat, one of the most commonly used herbicides worldwide, have both been identified as risk factors for the development and progression of PD.  The purpose of this study is to utilize a unique animal model for genetic risk AUDs in combination with an enviromental exposure model for PD to study paraquat-induced neurobehavioral sensitivity to alcohol and associated neuropathologies.  The long term goal of this work is to identify risk factors and biological mechanisms for both PD and AUDs, and their co-occurance, which will lead to the identification of prevention and treatment strategies for these brain disorders.

Project Title:  Stability changes in manual and locomotor function across the age span

PI:  Dr. Satya Ambike

Project Abstract:  Aging leads to several debilitating movement deficitis, such as loss of manual dexerity and increased risk and incidence of falls that negatively impact longevity and quality of life.  Loss in manual dexerity is inevitable after age 60 years, resulting in reduced ability to perform many activites of daily life.  Older adults with declining manual function use more health resources and are less likely to live independently.  Similarly, falls in older adults are quite common and lead to substantial medical costs (over $28 billion in 2008).

Recent evidence has emerged suggesting that movement issues across multiple behaviors are related to decline in the systemic, behavior-independent mechanism of stability modulation in neurological patients.  A healthy sensorimotor system is capable of modulating stability of movements in response to the context.  High stability allows rejection of enviromental disturbances, and controlled decline in the stability of the current movement facilitates efficient transitions between movements.  There is a significant need to translate this knowledge and highlight this issue in the case of healthy aging.

This proposal investigates impared stability modulation as a potential systemic movement problem that contributes to deficits in multiple movements in healthy aging.  Stability modulation in a prehensile task and a step-initiation task in the same cohort of healthy young and older participants will be quantified and correlated.  If individuals display consistently high or low stability modulation for both behaviors, one obtains a rationale for altering the goals and designs of therapeutic interventions.  Arresting aging-related decline in stability modulation will result in benefits across multiple movement types, allow older individuals to remain functional and mobile for longer, and lead to improved quality of life.

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