Dopamine is a brain chemical that profoundly affects our brain functions, including motor control, cognition and reward regulation, as seen in Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and drug addiction. Fu-Ming Zhou, PhD, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has received a grant totaling $1.66 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the role of dopamine as it relates to Parkinson’s disease.
“This newly funded project will provide a better understanding of the brain dopamine system, thus eventually helping our battle against these devastating brain disorders,” said Dr. Zhou, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC
The award will be used to support a project titled, “Ion Channel Mechanisms of Striatal Dopaminergic Motor Stimulation,” and will be distributed over five years.
Animals and humans lose their motor function almost instantaneously when dopamine is lost. Motor function is restored when brain dopamine is replenished, demonstrating that dopamine is absolutely required for our normal motor function — hence people develop motor function deficits or Parkinson’s disease when they lose their dopamine in the brain. A fundamental question is: What does dopamine do in the brain to produce such a profound motor-stimulating function? This is the question that Dr. Zhou and his research team hope to answer.
Using anatomical, physiological and behavioral techniques, researchers will determine how dopamine affects neuronal activity and spike-firing in the brain. The new knowledge gained will advance the understanding of dopamine’s precise neuronal effects and mechanisms in both the normal brain and Parkinson’s disease brain, thus, providing a foundation to improve treatments of Parkinson’s disease.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is dedicated to research and disseminating knowledge centered on the brain and nervous system in efforts to reduce neurological disease. For more information, visit www.ninds.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.