Cutting-Edge Neuroimaging Approaches

Garret Stuber, Ph.D.

UNC Department of Psychiatry

Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Cell Biology & Physiology

Developed cutting-edge neuroimaging approaches that led to the discovery of how adaptive and maladaptive behaviors are controlled by dynamic changes in networks involving the frontal cortex, a region implicated in many psychiatric illnesses.

One of Dr. Stuber’s proudest and highest impact research accomplishments was developing novel approaches for deciphering how frontal cortical network dynamics control adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Frontal cortex is known to be critical for controlling decision making, impulsivity, and general executive function. Disruption in frontal cortical function is thought to be a driver of many forms of mental illness, ranging from addiction, depression, and schizophrenia. The problem is, neuroscientists and psychiatrists still have a very poor mechanistic understanding of how different cell types in the frontal cortex drive behavior output in intact subjects. To begin to resolve this, Dr. Stuber’s lab has developed cutting-edge neuroimaging approaches which allow them to “watch” that activity 100’s to 1,000’s of intact neurons respond to environmental stimuli that can modulate behavior. The team is now beginning to realize that not all cell types in the frontal cortex behave the same way, but instead have functionally distinct subtypes that participate in very different aspects of animal behavior. This research will likely identify novel and important new classes of neurons that should be targeted for better treatment of a variety of neuropsychiatric illness.  Support from the Foundation of Hope was critical for the early development of this line of research. Seed money was used to fund the preliminary studies on frontal cortex control of behavior, which resulted in receiving multiple large NIH grants, allowing Dr. Stuber to continue this work for many years to come.