Research Philosophy

Research Philosophy

Because mind matters.

Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are notorious for their capacity to destroy our most advanced cognitive abilities. However, neurodegenerative disease likely begins with subtle disruptions of the more fundamental processes of the brain–such as homeostatic regulation of our physical and emotional states. These “presymptomatic” alterations in brain structure and function hold promise as indicators for early detection of disease. This is important because our best chance of fighting neurodegenerative disease is to stop or slow its progress before it damages those higher order brain areas and impairs our cognitive abilities. The Crish Lab’s research mission is to identify “presymptomatic” brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and related brain disorders, interrogate the mechanisms that allow these changes to occur, and develop innovative targets for therapeutic intervention.

 

Vision in hindsight.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 5 million people currently afflicted (1). AD robs patients of their memory, their sense of security, and even their sense of self. And this description dramatically understates the full impact of this devastating disorder on patients and their friends and family.

There are currently no treatments that alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease, and the course of Alzheimer’s disease always ends with death.

My introduction to the neurobiology and best practices for “treatment” of AD occured when I was an undergraduate student back in 1997. Today, this area of medicine has nothing more to offer these patients in terms of disease-modifying treatments than it did 20 years ago. As I progressed through my career training in neuroscience, I watched as incredible advances occurred around me in other areas of brain research, and I couldn’t help but wonder: what is AD research doing wrong? When I began my independent research career as a neuroscientist, I knew I needed ¬†to join the cause of so many other diligent researchers working on this problem. AD research is not an easy field to get into because there are a lot of people “guarding the gates” to it, and it requires throwing aside decades of stale dogma and scientific politicking while remembering to stand respectfully on the shoulders of the giants who have indeed inched this challenging field forward. And as a junior faculty researcher just starting my lab, I still have a ways to go. However, with every experiment we run, piece of data we collect, ¬†manuscript we publish, and grant application we submit, I hope my lab’s research can contribute a meaningful piece to help solve the puzzle of Alzheimer’s disease.

(1) AD statistics taken from the Alzheimer’s Association, 2017.