Dr. Eskandar is successfully progressing along an academic track with his own lab in the newly developed Center for Nervous System Repair. His research involves the exploration and use of microelectrode recordings to define the function of the basal ganglia and with translational studies to patients with movement disorders and Parkinson’s disease. As a Rappaport Scholar, Dr. Eskandar purchased equipment and software to construct a computer system that collected high-quality intraoperative physiologic data from patients undergoing surgery to treat Parkinson disease. With this system, Dr. Eskandar initiated an IRB approved protocol to study the activity of neurons in the subthalamic nucleus during visually guided movements. The computers and interface cards are used to run the visual experiment and to store and analyze the physiologic data. Dr. Eskandar’s group is currently the only one in the world conducting this kind of research. The preliminary results have been extremely interesting and are the subject of upcoming talks at the Congress of Neurologic Surgeons Meeting and American Association of Neurology meeting. In addition, Dr. Eskandar has submitted one paper and is preparing another at the present time.
The basal ganglia play a critical but enigmatic role in many aspects of brain function including movement, motivation, reward, and addiction. The vast number of neurologic disorders such as Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, Tourette syndrome, dystonia, and schizophrenia, that involve the basal ganglia are a testament to the importance of this role. However, defining precisely the role of the basal ganglia in the normal control of movement or motivation is surprisingly difficult. The goal of the experiments described here is to explore the role of basal ganglia in adaptive learning and motor control in awake-behaving primates and in human subjects undergoing surgery. Our lab is uniquely positioned to investigate basal ganglia function in nonhuman primates and in humans undergoing surgery for movement disorders.