Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
The Ohio State University
Michele A. Basso is currently the director of the Fuster Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. The laboratory runs a research program focusing on basic questions of science that may have direct clinical impact on the treatment of certain diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. One of Dr. Basso’s current target research projects investigates the role of two parts of the brain, the basal ganglia and the superior colliculus, in saccadic (quick and simultaneous) eye movement decision-making. Saccadic eye movement choices, like many other action selections, are routed through the basal ganglia and superior colliculus within the brain. Further study of the link between these parts of the brain and saccadic eye movement selection may yield a better understanding of how Parkinson’s disease may cause decreases in patients’ decision-making ability.
Recovery of function following injury to the central nervous system appears to be dependent on factors that include: the severity of the lesion, the type and number of spared descending systems, the type of therapeutic intervention administered and the time at which the intervention is given. Projects in my lab focus on identifying these and other factors, which affect motor recovery. We currently use a rat model of spinal cord injury (SCI), which replicates human SCI such that a central lesion is produced which is surrounded by a rim of spared tissue. The spared tissue is comprised of axons, which ascend to and descend from the brain. We and others have shown that greater axonal sparing is associated with greater locomotor recovery. My work has focused on identifying the brain nuclei with spared descending axons, which extend below the lesion and are responsible for recovery. Several systems appear to play an important role in recovery and we are now doing a series of lesion experiments of specific brain nuclei after SCI in order to determine the role each plays in recovery. These experiments require precise behavioral analysis; therefore, we utilize two-dimensional kinematic analysis of locomotor and reflex behaviors. In this way, we are able to establish some of the neural mechanisms, which underlie motor recovery.