Northwestern named Udall Center for Parkinson's Disease Research

Northwestern University has received $5.5 million award from the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke to establish a Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's Disease Research.

The center, which will focus on the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the motor and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson's disease, will be headed by D. James Surmeier, Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.

Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder associated with aging. Symptoms include tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity and postural instability. Although several brain regions are affected in Parkinson's disease, the most devastating effects are in the basal ganglia, a group of brain structures linked to control of movement and learning.

The central goal of the Northwestern University Udall Center is to determine how neural activity in basal ganglia circuits is altered in Parkinson's disease, with the goal of developing new therapies to normalize this activity and alleviate the symptoms of the disease.

The center's research program employs state-of-the-art electrophysiological, optical and computational approaches to understand the pathophysiology of the basal ganglia regions most intimately linked to the symptoms of Parkinson's disease the globus pallidus and subthalamic nucleus. Current neurosurgical treatment strategies for later stage Parkinson's disease patient target these regions, most commonly with deep brain stimulation.

The Northwestern University Udall Center has four project teams and a molecular biology core facility. Surmeier directs one of the project teams studying neurons found in the globus pallidus. Mark Bevan, associate professor of physiology, heads a team studying neurons found in the subthalamic nucleus.

Two other projects involve researchers affiliated with other institutions. Kitoshi Kita, University of Tennes

Contact: Elizabeth Crown
Northwestern University

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