Innovations in the direct study of human brain function in health and disease to be presented

Read Montague

By Jim Stroup

Read Montague directs the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will present new approaches to measuring dopamine signals in the human brain at the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine’s annual symposium in Boston on April 21.

Montague led a research team that demonstrated the first sub-second measurements of dopamine release in a human brain. The researchers modified existing sensor technology to create a microsensor that shared the electrochemical properties of existing electrodes yet could detect the release of dopamine in milliseconds. Working with a patient with Parkinson’s disease who was undergoing deep-brain-stimulating electrode implantation, the team also provided preliminary evidence that the neurotransmitter can be tracked in its movement between brain cells while a subject expresses decision-making behavior.

“Deep-brain stimulation is typically used for treating people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Montague. “But researchers are also investigating uses for treating other neurological disorders, and these uses may open new avenues for the technology we developed.”

Montague will be one of four speakers at the symposium, “New Experimental Approaches to Human Brain Function in Health and Disease.” The other speakers are Evan Eichler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Washington in Seattle, who will discuss how genomic duplication predisposes to disease risk and mediates gene innovations during human evolution; Robert Innis, chief of the Molecular Imaging Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, who will present his work with positron emission tomography to explore brain pathophysiology; and Daniel Weinberger, director and chief executive officer of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in Baltimore, who will present new approaches to understanding human medial temporal lobe biology.

“These speakers are some of the most notable and accomplished leaders in the science of human brain function and disease,” said Michael Friedlander, president of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine and executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “They’ve all developed and expanded exciting ways to probe the function of the living human brain, allowing new avenues for tackling the most fundamental challenges of human brain health and disease.”

These talks will provide a glimpse into the future of research into human neurobiology and brain disease, added Friedlander, who is completing his two-year term as president of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine this summer and is the chair of the symposium. “These neuroscience innovators are guaranteed to provide provocative insights into the human brain and the disorders that impair its function.”