Block, Michelle L., PhD

Microglia are the resident innate immune cells in the brain that serve as central nervous system sentinels, quickly detecting and responding to diverse stimuli.  Excessive and chronic activation has been linked to neuron damage and the progressive nature of neurodegenerative diseases.  Our current research focuses on: 1) identifying triggers (environmental and endogenous) that initiate deleterious microglial activation, 2) revealing the redox mechanisms through which microglia cause neurotoxicity, and 3) applying these findings towards halting the progression of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Gulf War Illness.

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Byrd, Kenneth E., PhD


Anatomical and neuroanatomical correlates of function and/or behavior – fMRI/brain activation patterns during bruxing, masticatory biomechanics; neurophysiology of mastication; function/dysfunction of temporomandibular joint; interaction between central pattern generators in CNS and morphology of the craniofacial complex; neurotransmitter stimulation and inhibition of brainstem motoneurons and their morphological sequelae in the craniofacial complex.


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Jin, Xiaoming, PhD

My lab is interested in understanding the organization and plasticity of neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, and the mechanisms of epileptogenesis following traumatic brain injury. These topics are investigated with a variety of techniques at molecular, cellular and circuit levels, including laser scanning photostimulation combined with whole cell patch clamp recording, organotypic brain slice culture, gene gun transfection, time lapse confocal imaging, in vitro and in vivo optogenetic stimulation.

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Johnson, Philip L., PhD

My overall career goal is to integrate preclinical and clinical research to investigate the mechanisms of centrally regulated anxiety and panic-associated behavior that coincides with cardio-respiratory and thermoregulatory activity, and determine how these systems contribute to menopausal symptoms (e.g., hot flashes and anxiety) from loss of estrogen tone; neuropsychiatric disorders such as panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

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Jones, Kathryn, PhD

 The overarching goal of the research being conducted in our laboratory is to elucidate basic mechanisms underlying neural injury and repair in the mammalian nervous system following injury and/or disease. In vivo injury studies include both peripheral nerve injury (PNI) and spinal cord injury (SCI) animal models, immunodeficient animals, and an animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In vitro studies include stem cell-derived motoneurons, and olfactory ensheathing cells as transplant material in SCI.

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Kubek, Michael J., PhD

CDNA cloning, in situ hybridization, immunocytochemical localization, quantitation, characterization, metabolism, and receptor activity of hypothalamic and extra hypothalamic neuroactive peptides and their effects on neuroendocrine function, neurologic and affective disorders and epilepsy. Specific peptides under investigation are thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), Beta-endorphin and leucine enkephalin with major emphasis on TRH.

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Lei, Zhigang, PhD

We study the basic mechanisms and novel treatments of traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic epilepsy, and neuropathic pain.  Current research focuses on the role of homeostatic regulation mechanism in the development and treatment of posttraumatic epilepsy and neuropathic pain. Other projects include motor cortex reorganization and abnormal cerebral microcirculation following traumatic brain injury, and prevention of posttraumatic epilepsy by targeting inflammation. We also collaborated with other labs on studying antiepileptic drugs in mouse or human brain slices and using optogenetic stimulation for controlling neuropathic pain and for improving corticospinal tract sprouting after spinal cord injury.  These projects are funded by the NIH, private foundations, and the Indiana state. 

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Truitt, William A., PhD

Our lab is interested in the mechanisms by which emotion and behavior are regulated and what factors lead to pathological behavior and mental illness. In this work we use a broad spectrum of preclinical tools ranging from animal models of behavior to molecular dissection of mechanisms and neural circuitry. One particular area of focus involves investigations into cognitive override of emotions, with the aim of determining how social interactions can be used to overcomes anxiety. It is our hope that findings from such studies will contribute to our understanding of the neural mechanism by which psychotherapy helps patients overcome anxiety. Our laboratory is funded by the NIMH, NIAAA and Indiana CTSI.

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Xu, Zao C., MD, PhD

The main research focus of our lab is to reveal the mechanisms of brain damage after cerebral ischemia or traumatic brain injury (TBI) using animal models.  Stroke is the leading cause of death in U.S. and TBI results in disability in many young adults.  Excitotoxicity is one of the major mechanisms underlying neuronal injury after stroke and TBI.  Using contemporary electrophysiological, biochemical, molecular biological and morphological approaches, we investigate the role of alterations of synaptic transmission and potassium channels in cell death and epilepsy following ischemia/TBI.

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Zhou, Feng C., PhD

My long-term research interest is how environment (e.g. alcohol, drug, stress) impacts brain development and its structure and functionality. My research, over decades, includes the study of genetics (genetic sequence) and epigenetics (moldable genetic elements such as DNA methylation and histone code which provide instruction for gene transcription) of alcoholism and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In recent years, using molecular and nano-technology, my research team has focused on two aspects, first, the Neuroepigenetics that occurs during development and its responses to environmental inputs that affect the brain function. Our recent findings indicate that epigenetics has an innate program during early neural development and through adult neurogenesis. Alcohol drinking during pregnancy changes the neural stem cell epigenetic program at genome wide as well as gene specific level. We are currently engaged in epigenetic editing using TALE to correct aberrant DNA methylation at gene specific manner. The second focus of my current studies is to understand how familial drinking preference is carried across generations through genetic and epigenetic interactions.  We have, using next generation sequencing, constructed a genomic book how a drinker differs from non-drinker in established animal model fit with every criteria of human drinking. Further, we are investigating how chronic drinking altered epigenetic signature interfere gene transcription that might be carried into future generations. 

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Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology | IU School of Medicine | 635 Barnhill Drive, MS 5035 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | (317) 274-7494