Aptly reflecting the complexity of the brain, neuroscience is a field with as many different angles to explore as there are researchers who are willing to take on the challenge. Neuroscience research, broadly speaking, encompasses the study of the relationship of the brain (structural) to the mind (mental). At Creighton University, researchers from disciplines including biology, psychology, pharmacology, neurology, medical microbiology and biomedical sciences all engage in work that falls under this umbrella.
Sanjay Singh, MD, professor and chair in the Department of Neurology, runs the Creighton Epilepsy Center and has published on novel treatments and prevention methods for seizures. Often he is joined by his colleague Michele Faulkner, PharmD, a registered pharmacist and professor of pharmacy practice who also has an appointment in the School of Medicine. Faulkner has published and presented extensively on medications for neurological disorders.
Kristina Simeone, PhD, and Timothy Simeone, PhD, both associate professors of pharmacology, also study epilepsy. As a husband-and-wife team, they run two robust labs, with medical, graduate and undergraduate student research assistants. K. Simeone has been examining sleep and the brain for much of her career. Her latest project, funded by a $1.78 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks answers about sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which, according to the CDC, is a poorly understood phenomenon. T. Simeone, PhD, has a sizable NIH award to study diet’s effects on the brain. Together, the Simeones have pioneered research on the positive effects that a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbs, can have on epilepsy.
Annemaria Shibata, PhD, associate professor of biology, studies the effect of neurotrophic factors – a family of biomolecules – on HIV. In 2015, with the help of the Simeones, Anthony Kincaid, PhD, Dustin Stairs, PhD, and Shashank Dravid, PhD, she established the interdisciplinary neuroscience undergraduate major. For the program’s first year, the goal of the program was to recruit about ten students to major in neuroscience; the program now has nearly 100 students interested in the major. Undergraduate research is a key part of the experience for many neuroscience students at Creighton.
In the Department of Psychology, Amy Badura Brack, PhD, is pioneering a treatment that can change brain structures impacted by trauma. Common post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatments are emotionally difficult. However, the intervention tested by Badura Brack with combat veterans simply requires playing a computer game to retrain attention to potentially threatening information.
Dynamic faculty members across Creighton’s schools and colleges continue to push toward deeper knowledge of the mysteries of the brain. They work with talented students to mentor the next generation of researchers, ensuring that new discoveries will continue. They collaborate in exciting ways: across the disciplines at Creighton, with colleagues at other institutions at home and abroad, with state and federal entities, and with private companies and nonprofit organizations. With innovation and collegiality, they help Creighton’s neuroscience portfolio continue to grow deep and wide.