Drug abuse and mental health

Drug abuse represents one of the most significant health challenges in the 21st century, with major impacts on individual health and societal support and closely linked causative and resultant effects on mental health.  

Faculty in this group are investigating the cellular and behavioral effects of drug abuse, seeking a better understanding of the pharmacology of agents and their mechanisms.

Glial cell biology

The mammalian nervous system comprises a complex array of cell types required for neural function.   

Researchers in this group focus on the diverse role of glial cells in nervous system development, disease and repair. Ongoing research investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the proliferation, migration and differentiation of glial cells during development and glia-associated pathology in the following:   

  • Multiple sclerosis  
  • HIV  
  • Parkinson’s disease  
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Aging  
  • Head trauma

Injury, Repair and Degeneration

Traumatic damage to the brain and spinal cord constitutes some of the most devastating nervous system disorders. Nationally recognized investigators at VCU focus on the study, treatment and repair of central nervous system damage.  

This group uses contemporary cellular, molecular and electrophysiological approaches to study initiating pathogenesis, therapeutic targeting to attenuate damage and delayed interventions to expedite the recovery and repair.

Plasticity and development

The mammalian nervous system is characterized by a highly sophisticated network of cell-to-cell interactions, and understanding its development and function is necessary to combat neurological disease and dysfunction.   

Our faculty members examine basic structural and functional mechanisms underlying sensory processing and plasticity at molecular, cellular and network levels. This work has clinical implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as:  

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome  
  • Autism
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Epilepsy  
  • Dyslexia  
  • Deafness

Channels, Receptors and Transporters

Understanding the molecular basis of membrane protein function in electrically excitable cells is a main focus of neuroscience. Research interests are far-ranging and include the following:   

  • Mechanism of transcription, replication and recombination  
  • Signal transduction   
  • Membrane proteins  
  • Characterization of macromolecular machines  

This dynamic, interdisciplinary group combines a broad spectrum of techniques including structural and computational biology, cryo-transmission electron microscopy, cellular and molecular biology and genetics to explore how membranes transduce signals and transport molecules in order to maintain cell homeostasis in health and disease.