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Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute
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Core Facilities

Our ultimate goal is to develop translational neuroscience research at all levels.  One goal of the CTN is to effectively translate new knowledge, mechanisms, and techniques generated by advances in basic science research into new approaches for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.  We have been very successful in this T1 aim.  A second goal (T2) is to improve access, coordinate systems of care, and help clinicians and patients make more informed choices, providing point-of-care decision support tools, and strengthening the patient physician relationship.  Both goals are aimed at improving the health of our citizens.  We currently support laboratory research (molecular, cellular, organ), pre-clinical research, are beginning to study medical and behavioral outcomes, and have solid experience in community based research and outreach. 

 Human Electrophysiology Core:  We needed to be able to measure the effects of illness, lesion, drugs, etc. on different levels of the neuraxis in humans.  Therefore, we established the capacity for recording the midlatency auditory P50 evoked potential, whose amplitude is a measure of level of arousal and thus assesses brainstem-thalamus processes (5).  The use of paired auditory stimuli allows us to measure habituation to repetitive stimulation, or sensory gating, a process disturbed in a number of diseases (5).  We also developed the capacity to measure reaction time (RT) using a Psychomotor Vigilance Task (6) to derive the prototypical measure of attention and thalamocortical processes (7).  We developed the capacity to measure frontal lobe blood flow using near infrared spectroscopy, which provides an economical indicator for the use of more expensive methods such as PET.  We have a clinical EEG machine with electrode cap, along with MatLab software.  We established a satellite facility for spinal reflex testing in spinal cord injury and other patient populations.

 Animal Electrophysiology Core:  This Core includes the rodent equivalent of the human P50 potential, the midlatency auditory P13 evoked potential (8), allowing parallel human and animal studies.  A separate room contains an animal reflex testing set-up to allow parallel studies on humans and animal with spinal cord injury and other motor disorders.  We set up multiple patch-clamp rigs with immersion and interface chambers, and a full surgical facility is also part of this Core.  We have expanded our capabilities to include voltage-sensitive dye and calcium imaging at high speed and at high resolution.

 Image Analysis Core:  This Core has a confocal microscope and morphometric analysis software, along with multizoom, and fluorescence microscopy capability, and a fully equipped and staffed histology laboratory for histochemical and immunocytochemical labeling. 

 Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Core:  This Core allows testing of TMS on a number of conditions.  As the equipment aged, we upgraded the human facility and used the older equipment to develop our capacity to use TMS on animals in the Animal Electrophysiology Core. 

 Molecular Biology Core:  This Core includes a RT-PCR and multi-gene assay capacity, along with a state-of-the-art metabolic cage system. 

 Behavioral Core:  The Core is based in the Pharmacology department under Dr. Fantegrossi's direction.  It includes chambers for assessing, in rats and mice, locomotion, conditioned place preference, and prepulse inhibition.  A new Noldus EthoVision system was added for video tracking and activity measures, while a CatWalk system was purchased for gait analysis and detailed locomotion analyses.

 Telemedicine Core:  This Core includes real-time teleconferencing and diagnostic quality imaging equipment for 20 rural hospitals and a central Mediasite facility.  Weekly telemedicine conferences on perinatology allow our community of health care personnel, including physicians, nurses and therapists, to participate live, to gain continuing medical education (CME) credit, and to help develop therapeutic and other guidelines.  The program is called Pediatric Physician Learning and Collaborative (Peds PLACE) program.  Consultations follow the educational conferences and help form collaborative relationships, provide better care for rural and underserved populations, and lead to more organized transfers and referrals.  A second program links 9 existing Emergency Department sites with 6 new ones in a program called Emergency Department Physician Learning and Collaborative Education (EDs PLACE).