Faculty and Research

Dr. Matther Hodges with an NDP studentNeuroscience Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin is cutting-edge and highly translational. Close connections and collaborations between basic neuroscientists and clinicians make the atmosphere at MCW dynamic, disease-relevant and a rich environment for training. Our NDP students are an integral part of our research community because they receive one-on-one training from our NIH-funded faculty. If you are a prospective student looking for innovative, world-class training in a synergistic, exciting atmosphere, we invite you to explore our faculty research areas below!

Neurodegeneration and Neurotrauma

Neurodegenerative diseases including ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Spinal Cord Injury are studied using stem cells, animal models and human tissues.

human iPSC-derived astrocytes microscopy section of the human brain
cerebral organoid neurons generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells Human iPSC-Derived Motor Neurons

Human iPSC-Derived Astrocytes (top left), Microscopy Section of the Human Brain (top right), Cerebral Organoid Neurons mini-brain (bottom left) and Human iPSC-Derived Motor Neurons (bottom right)


Xiaowen Bai, MD, PhD

Xiaowen Bai, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Physiology
My research interests are centered on the application of stem cells on disease modeling and tissue regeneration. The current major focus of the laboratory is to use utilize gain- and loss-of-function approaches to examine the novel molecular mechanisms underlying the roles of microRNAs and mitochondrial dynamics in developmental neurotoxicity in mice, and translate the findings to humans using stem cell-derived neurons and three-dimensional mini brain.

Matthew Budde, PhD

Matthew D. Budde, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Neurosurgery
The goal of my research is to understand nervous system injury and disease and improve its diagnosis and prognosis. My primary interest is in traumatic brain and spinal cord injury and centers around magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a means to noninvasively detect and visualize injury. A variety of complementary and multi-disciplinary approaches are used such as preclinical models and histology, computational simulations, and MRI software and hardware development. The ultimate goal is to improve clinical care and outcomes from neurological injury.

Bonnie N. Dittel, PhD

Bonnie N. Dittel, PhD

Senior Investigator, Blood Research Institute, Blood Center of Wisconsin
The goal of my research program is to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of the autoimmune immune response. Broadly, we are studying how the immune system regulates inflammation associated with autoimmunity in the central nervous system (CNS) (brain and spinal cord). We are also investigating novel immune-mediated mechanisms of neurodegeneration.

Allison D. Ebert, PhD

Allison D. Ebert, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
My lab focuses on using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patient tissue to understand the mechanisms contributing to neuronal loss. We have a particular interest in studying the neurodegenerative diseases spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. We use the human stem cell model system to understand the molecular basis for the disease progression and test the therapeutic benefit of small molecule treatment and gene therapy/manipulation. Finally, we validate our findings in rodent models of disease and test the therapeutic benefit of stem cell transplantation.

Balaraman Kalyanaraman, PhD

Raman Kalyanaraman, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Biophysics
Harry R. & Angeline E. Quadracci Professor in Parkinson’s Research
Founder, Free Radical Research Center

My research interests are centered on the application of EPR in free radical biology and understanding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in signal transduction and apoptosis.

Frank A. Pintar, PhD

Frank A. Pintar, PhD

Professor, Department of Neurosurgery
Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University
Director, VA Neuroscience Labs

Dr. Pintar's research projects are centered around the basic biomechanics of neurotrauma. Current work emphasizes the physics of concussion in military environments, and the mechanisms of spinal injury in domestic and military transportation systems. Laboratory models include experimental tissue testing and computational analysis.

Matt Scaglione, PhD

Matt Scaglione, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry
The Scaglione lab investigates protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases. The lab has two main areas of focus, the first focuses on developing strategies to enhance neuroprotective protein quality control pathways. The second focuses on understanding how the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum, naturally resists protein aggregation. Our ultimate goal is to develop therapeutics that can be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Neuroimaging, tissue to brain

State-of-the-art brain imaging is used to study language, vision, hearing, learning and memory, and brain diseases including cancer.

Confocal AOSLO of Gound Squirrel Photoreceptors Combination of individual segmentation to generate radiomic profile map
Cone inner segment mosaic in subject with ACHM Optos image from a subject with ocular albinism

Confocal AOSLO of Gound Squirrel Photoreceptors (top left), Combination of individual segmentation to generate radiomic profile map (top right), Cone inner segment mosaic in subject with ACHM (bottom left) and Optos image from a subject with ocular albinism (bottom right)


Jeffrey R. Binder, MD

Jeffrey R. Binder, MD

Vice Chair for Research
Professor, Department of Neurology
Professor, Department of Cellular Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
Professor, Department of Biophysics
Director, Stroke and Neurobehavior Programs, Department of Neurology
Director, Language Imaging Laboratory, Department of Neurology
Interim Director, Functional Imaging Research Center

Our main focus is on using functional MRI to study the neurophysiological correlates of normal language processes. Though our interests range widely, the chief focus is on left temporal lobe systems associated with perceptual processes and memory stores underlying language behavior, particularly single word recognition. A second major focus of our laboratory is on development and testing of methods for presurgical functional localization of language and episodic memory systems. Our aim is to use the basic knowledge gained from fMRI studies of normal language processing to predict and prevent neuropsychological deficits in patients who must undergo surgery in sensitive brain areas.

Joseph Carroll

Joseph Carroll, PhD

Richard O. Schultz, MD / Ruth Works Professor in Ophthalmology
Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Biophysics, and Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy
Director, Advanced Ocular Imaging Program

My primary focus is on applying high-resolution imaging tools (adaptive optics and optical coherence tomography) to the study of the human retina.

Ted DeYoe, PhD

Edgar A. DeYoe, PhD

Professor, Department of Radiology
Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy
Associate Professor, Department of Biophysics
Graduate Faculty, Programs in Cell & Developmental Biology, Neuroscience and Biophysics

In our research we seek to understand the fundamental brain processes that are responsible for our ability to see. This includes our capacities for seeing color, for accurately estimating movement, and for seeing the world as three-dimensional. It also includes more complex functions such as our ability to recognize faces.

James S. Hyde, PhD

James S. Hyde, PhD

The James S. Hyde Professor of Biophysics, Emeritus
Founder, National Biomedical EPR Center

My personal interest in EPR is to contribute to the development of EPR instrumentation and extend the ways in which existing EPR instrumentation can be used for new categories of biomedical problems.

Peter LaViolette, PhD, MS

Peter LaViolette, PhD, MS

Assistant Professor, Departments of Radiology and Biophysics
The overall goal of my lab’s research is creating and validating imaging techniques that improve both patient outcome and treatment efficacy. I primarily work with neurological diseases such as brain cancer and epilepsy in a translational setting, collaborating with clinicians for the betterment of patient care. Our brain cancer research has been focused on characterizing brain tumor cellularity and vascularity through imaging methods such as diffusion and perfusion MRI.

Shi-Jiang Li, PhD

Shi-Jiang Li, PhD

Professor, Department of Biophysics
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

Dr. Li's research focuses on improving and developing advanced MRI acquisition and data analysis techniques to measure brain functional and structural network organizations.

 Merav Sabri, PhDMerav Sabri, PhD

Merav Sabri, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology
Dr. Sabri's research employs noninvasive physiological techniques, event-related potential (ERP) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), together with behavioral measures (e.g., reaction time) to investigate the role of attention in auditory information processing.

Kathleen M. Schmainda, PhD

Kathleen M. Schmainda, PhD

Robert C. Olson, MD, Professor in Radiology
Vice-chair, Imaging Research Division of Imaging Sciences

A primary focus of our laboratory is the development of MRI methods to assess brain tumor angiogenesis and invasion. The methods developed in our laboratory can provide information about the normal brain and the vascular structure of tumors, the amount of blood volume in the brain and tumor (cerebral blood volume [CBV]), and the perfusion or delivery of blood to the tumor (cerebral blood flow [CB]).

Cellular and Synaptic Communication

Neuronal Communication at the cellular level is studied using cutting-edge genetic and electrophysiological tools in order to dissect mechanisms of development and disease in the visual system, learning and memory, and addiction.

Zebrafish animal model Fluorescent reporter expression in the retina
Neural progenitor development in the retina Fluorescent red nuclei and green structural proteins in the retina

Zebrafish animal model (top left), Fluorescent reporter expression in the retina (top right), Neural progenitor development in the retina (bottom left) and Fluorescent red nuclei and green structural proteins in the retina (bottom right)


Joseph Besharse, PhD

Joseph C. Besharse, PhD

Marjorie & Joseph Heil Professor in Ophthalmology
Director of Research, MCW Eye Institute

We are studying the cellular and molecular basis of circadian rhythmicity in the retina and other peripheral oscillators such as liver. The current major focus of the laboratory is to use mouse genetics to study the role of the central "clockwork" genes, Period and Clock in the retina and the role of the clock regulated genes Nocturnin and Usp2 downstream of the circadian clock.

Nashaat Gerges, PhD

Nashaat Gerges, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
The research in the laboratory is focused on elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanism of synaptic plasticity, and the associated changes in the disease states.

Iris S. Kassem, MD, PhD

Iris S. Kassem, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Pediatric Ophthalmology Service

By combining science with medicine, I hope to bring more knowledge to the field and discover innovative therapies to improve children’s eye care and the quality of life for our patients.

Sang Hyeong Lee, PhD

Sang Hyeong Lee, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
The long-term goal of my research program is to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity. Unraveling the cell biological mechanisms of how neurons control precisely the targeting, clustering, and removal of synaptic proteins into and from synapses, and how synaptic activity modulates these processes, is a fundamental goal in my lab.

Brian Link, PhD

Brian Link, PhD

Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
The overarching research goal of the Link lab is to study the cellular basis of signaling and the role in development and relationships to disease processes. We primarily use zebrafish for our studies, combining imaging based technologies and genome editing. As part of this research we have developed tools to monitor and manipulate basic cellular processes such as endocytosis, vesicle trafficking and nuclear dynamics.

Daniel M. Lipinski, MSc, DPhil

Daniel M. Lipinski, MSc, DPhil

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy

The overarching theme of my research program is the development of broadly applicable gene-based therapeutics to preserve vision in neurodegenerative and vascular diseases affecting the retina.

Qing-Song Liu, PhD

Qing-Song Liu, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanism of cocaine addiction.

Function of Neural Systems in normal and disease states

Neural circuits and pathways that underlie essential physiological functions and their misregulation in disease are studied. These include sleep disruption, breathing, chronic stress, reward systems, hearing, touch sensation and chronic pain.

Microscopy Section of the Human Brain Archaerhodopsin
Trigeminal Sensory Neurons - Zebrafish Human Visual System

Microscopy Section of the Human Brain (top left), Archaerhodopsin (top right), Trigeminal Sensory Neurons - Zebrafish (bottom left) and Human Visual System (bottom right)


Carol A. Everson PhD

Carol Everson, PhD

Professor, Department of Medicine
Our mission is to determine how the restriction of sleep, a basic biological requirement, affects the functions of cells, processes and systems in ways that increase the risk of disease, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. Areas of study include mediation of cell injury and inflammatory processes by sleep, abnormalities in blood cell production and bone metabolism resulting from sleep restriction, and changes to brain injury status by sleep augmentation and sleep restriction.

 Hubert V. Forster, PhD

Hubert V. Forster, Ph.D

Professor, Department of Physiology
Research in my laboratory is primarily concerned with mechanisms regulating breathing. Our studies relate to disease conditions of central and obstructive sleep apnea, Sudden Infant Death syndrome, congenital central alveolar hypoventilation, and traumatic brainstem injury.

David R. Harder PhD

David R. Harder, PhD

Kohler Co. Professor in Cardiovascular Research and Associate Dean for Research
Professor of Physiology, Medicine and Pediatrics
Director for Mentoring – Clinical and Translational Science Institute

The major focus of our laboratory is to understand mechanisms regulating the cerebral circulation under physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions. Studies in the laboratory are focused around the astrocyte as both a homeostatic sensor and an active regulator that can affect and protect both the cerebral vasculature and neurons.

Cecilia J. Hillard, PhD

Cecilia J. Hillard, PhD

Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Director of the Neuroscience Research Center

A long-standing interest of our laboratory is the study of the mechanisms by which the cannabinoids affect the function of the brain.

Matthew R. Hodges , PhD

Matthew R. Hodges , PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology
Our research is focused on understanding the roles of serotonin-producing neurons in controlling breathing and body temperature in health and disease. We use molecular genetics and cellular electrophysiologic techniques to identify genes and/or proteins that underlie pH sensing in the brain. We also study transgenic, mutant, and knockout rats as models of human diseases including SIDS, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and epilepsy.

Christopher M. Olsen, PhD

Christopher M. Olsen, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Neuroscience Research Center
The Olsen lab studies the neural underpinnings of behavior motivated by natural rewards and drugs of abuse. We use transgenic approaches to identify and manipulate neurons that are strongly engaged during specific behaviors such as cocaine seeking. In collaboration with faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery, we also study how mild brain injury can impact drug seeking and emotional behavior.

Danny A. Riley, PhD

Danny A. Riley, PhD

Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
My research focuses on understanding vibration injury of neural and vascular tissues from hand-held powered tools and the effects of actual and simulated spaceflight unloading on neuromuscular structure and function.

Christina L. Runge, PhD

Christina L. Runge, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences
Chief, Division of Communication Sciences
Director, Koss Cochlear Implant Program

The Runge lab focuses on several areas related to hearing loss and hearing habilitation, including genetics of hearing loss, auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, and cochlear implant performance.

Cheryl Stucky, PhD

Cheryl Stucky, PhD

Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
Director, Neuroscience Doctoral Program

The Stucky Lab has made key contributions to the pain field’s understanding of how ion channels on pain-sensing neurons contribute to pain and touch sensation. An exciting current direction is identifying mechanisms underlying pain in damaged skin, by examining bidirectional signaling between keratinocytes and sensory neurons. Another major focus is translational models of chronic pain including inflammation, nerve injury, sickle cell disease and Fabry Disease that are associated with devastating pain.

Margaret Wong-Riley, PhD

Margaret Wong-Riley, PhD

Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
Two areas of research: (1) We are probing for the molecular mechanisms underlying a tight coupling between neuronal activity and energy metabolism that are the basis for health and neurodegenerative diseases; and (2) we are uncovering the metabolic, neurochemical, ventilatory and electrophysiological bases of a critical period of postnatal respiratory development that may have significant implications for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

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