Research Centers and Units
The Addiction Recovery Research Center (ARRC) is dedicated to understanding addiction and developing new treatments that repair the impaired decision-making processes common in addictive disorders. Directed by Dr. Warren Bickel, ARRC has many resources to study addiction, including individualized computer therapy rooms, a ventilated smoking laboratory for measuring smoking behavior, access to three research-dedicated functional magnetic resonance imaging scanners, and access to brain stimulation equipment for transcranial magnetic simulation.
The most complex of all organ systems, the brain is composed of hundreds of billions of neural cells that are interconnected and work in concert to produce an array of human behaviors. Even subtle perturbation of these cells or connections can give rise to devastating neurological phenotypes. At the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Dr. Michael Fox leads the Developmental and Translational Neurobiology Center, where scientists investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development of these neural cells and their specialized connections, and how these cells are altered in neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, trauma and aging. Discoveries made by laboratories in the Developmental and Translational Neurobiology Center are not only elucidating mechanisms of disease, but are facilitating the development of novel approaches to treat the diseased or injured brain.
The Center for Heart and Regenerative Medicine Research at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute serves as a nexus for research teams exploring basic research questions about the heart. Four top researchers—Drs. Robert Gourdie, Steven Poelzing, John Chappell, and James Smyth—lead independent, yet linked, teams working to understand how the heart develops, how it becomes damaged, and, ultimately, how it can be repaired. They are also mapping out fundamental properties of the heart, such as how it conducts electricity.
The human brain is a vast computational device using sophisticated algorithms to perceive the world, make decisions, and take actions. It assigns values to its neural computations, and updates them based on real and simulated experience. It runs more efficiently than the most advanced computers in the world. Yet the algorithms of the human brain can go awry and contribute to psychiatric illness. Led by Dr. Read Montague, scientists at the Computational Psychiatry Unit seek to understand decision-making in health and various psychiatric disorders.
VTCRI Human Neuroimaging Laboratory
Research in the VTCRI Human Neuroimaging Laboratory covers a range of fields, including neuroscience, psychology, political science, and economics. Particular areas of interest are hyperscanning, social neuroscience, neural circuitry of valuation and decision-making, and disruptions of processes associated with developmental and psychiatric illness. Directed by Dr. Read Montague, the laboratory serves as the institute’s primary imaging facility, with two research-dedicated magnetic resonance imaging scanners in Roanoke and one in Blacksburg.
The directors of the VTCRI Neuromotor Research Clinic, Drs. Sharon Ramey and Stephanie DeLuca, have pioneered the use of a high-intensity therapeutic intervention that has allowed children with weakness on one side of their bodies—a hallmark of a form of cerebral palsy called hemiparesis—to make large, rapid, and enduring gains in their everyday neuromotor skills. Together these scientists work to advance knowledge about effective and innovative treatment strategies for children and young adults with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor movement disorders.
VTCRI Glial Biology in Health, Disease, and Cancer Center
Glial cells are the brain's most abundant cell type. At the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Dr. Harald Sontheimer leads the Glial Biology in Health, Disease, and Cancer Center, where scientists investigate the mechanisms underlying glial cell function in health, normal brain development, and disease, including brain tumors. Researchers can use this new found information to develop interventions and therapeutics for poor glial health.