Seminar Friday March 28


George C. McConnell, Ph.D.                                                                                                                                               
Research Scientist
Neural Prostheses Research Laboratory
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Duke University



Challenges of deep brain stimulation:  Insights from quantitative in vivo studies


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus effectively treats several motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, significant challenges hamper the full development of DBS for PD, including an unknown neural basis and ineffective treatment of axial symptoms (i.e., gait and postural instability). I addressed these challenges in a rat model of PD, combining quantitative behavior, neural analysis, and patterns of gene expression. The behavioral effects of stimulation frequency in the rat paralleled those observed in human, and analysis of neural activity revealed that behavioral improvements were strongly correlated with suppression of pathological oscillatory activity. DBS of the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) - a novel target - generated significant improvements in axial symptoms, which depended strongly on the location and frequency of stimulation. These studies illustrate the power of quantitative in vivo approaches to illuminate and advance electrical therapies for neurological disorders.



George McConnell received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in biomedical engineering from Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, in 2003 and the Ph.D. degree in bioengineering from Georgia Institute of Technology (with Prof. Ravi Bellamkonda), Atlanta, GA, in 2008. Currently, he is a Research Scientist in Prof. Warren Grill’s lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, Durham, NC. Dr. McConnell’s research interests lie in Neural Engineering. Specifically, he is interested in designing reliable brain-machine interfaces and developing neural stimulation strategies that minimize side effects and enhance therapeutic benefit.