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Neuroscience

Neuroscience research at Penn Vet focuses on clinical and basic studies to improve our understanding of the central nervous system and its involvement in diseases ranging from neurodegenerative disorders to obesity.

Core areas of emphasis and expertise include:

  • Feeding behavior/metabolism
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Neuroimmunology

In these studies, the generation of important animal models of disease provides valuable information that aids in the development of new drug targets and therapies in disease prevention and treatment.

As one of the key focuses within Penn Vet research, the neuroscience of obesity focuses on understanding the underlying causes of the recent escalation in overweight and obese humans and domestic pets.

Basic research is examining the signal transduction pathways involved in regulation of feeding behavior (Dr. Kendra Bence) and the neuroplasticity and stress related to dietary changes that may promote long-term weight gain ( Dr. Tracy Bale). Neuroscientists at Penn Vet are also involved in dynamic interactions with key centers on the Penn campus, including at Penn's School of Medicine, the Sleep Center, the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior.

The goal of the clinical neuroscience research is to improve the characterization and treatment of nervous system disease in animal patients.

Studies focus on naturally occurring neurodegenerative diseases in dogs and cats including lysosomal storage diseases (Niemann-Pick type C, alpha-mannosidosis, globoid cell leukodystrophy, and mucopolysaccharidososes (Dr. Charles Vite).

In a collaborative research project on epilepsy, Dr. Vite, Penn neurologists Kathryn A. Davis, MD, and Brian Litt, MD, along with the VCIC, joined Mayo, University of Minnesota and UC-Davis researchers to test an implantable device in dogs that may predict a “perfect storm” in the brain’s electrical system that signals a seizure — before it even happens. 

Current treatment emphasis is centered on the development of therapies for these diseases using pharmaceuticals and gene transfer technologies.