Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC - Research Centers and Units
Researchers in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute's Addiction Recovery Research Center (ARRC) work to understand addiction and develop new treatments that restore healthy decision-making in patients suffering from substance use disorders. Led by Dr. Warren Bickel, ARRC has many resources to study addiction, including:
- Individualized computer therapy rooms
- A ventilated smoking laboratory used to assess smoking behavior
- Access to the institute's three research-dedicated functional magnetic resonance imaging scanners
- Access to brain stimulation equipment for transcranial magnetic simulation
Glial cells are the brain's most abundant cell type. At the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Dr. Harald Sontheimer leads the Center for Glial Biology in Health, Disease, and Cancer, where scientists investigate the mechanisms underlying glial cell function in health, normal brain development, and disease, including brain tumors. Researchers use these insights to develop interventions and therapeutics for poor glial health.
Research in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute's Center for Human Neuroscience Research covers a range of fields, including neuroscience, computational psychiatry, psychology, political science, and economics. Particular areas of interest are:
- Social neuroscience
- Computational Psychiatry
- Neural circuitry of valuation and decision-making
- Disruptions of processes associated with developmental and psychiatric illness
Directed by Dr. Read Montague, the center includes the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, which serves as the institute’s primary imaging facility, with two research-dedicated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners in Roanoke and one additional fMRI in Blacksburg.
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 both health and psychiatric disorders.
The Center for Heart and Reparative Medicine Research at the Fralin Biomedical 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, including how the vascular system is developed, and how heart cells convey electricity.
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 Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Dr. Michael Fox leads the Center for Neurobiology Research, 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 Center for Neurobiology Research are not only elucidating mechanisms of disease, but are facilitating the development of novel approaches to treat the diseased or injured brain.
Led by Dr. Sharon Ramey and Dr. Stephanie DeLuca, the institute's Neuromotor Research Clinic has pioneered the use of high-intensity therapeutic interventions. These treatments have 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 mobility and 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.
The Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors (CTRHB) conducts transformative health behaviors research with the primary objectives of prevention and treatment of life-style related diseases. Led by Dr. Warren K. Bickel and Dr. Matthew W. Hulver, CTRHB researchers are working to develop a nationally-recognized and federally-funded Center of Excellence that focuses on improving health and quality of life in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Nation. The foci of CTRHB is three-fold:
- Neurobiological and Decision Making Sciences
- Molecular and Clinical Metabolic Sciences
- Implementation, Dissemination, and Health Policy Sciences
This innovative center works to achieve great synergy of research on lifestyle-related diseases with strong collaboration from investigators at the Virginia Tech Health Sciences campus in Roanoke, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, faculty in the College of Science, and Carilion Clinic. Partnership growth is anticipated with faculty from multiple colleges and institutes, given the broad expanse of the Center’s research interests, ranging from physiology to policy.