Brain Research Network

The Brain Research Network is a multidisciplinary group of scientists with expertise in:

  • Behavior
  • Brain imaging
  • Clinical neuroscience
  • Cognition
  • Fatigue
  • Neuropsychology
  • Pain
  • Psychiatry
  • Research design
  • Statistics

Our mission is to conduct innovative research that advances scientific understanding of human brain function and how that knowledge can be applied to improve clinical care for individuals with neurological, psychiatric, and other conditions.

Contact us

We welcome opportunities to facilitate clinical neuroscience research through collaboration, resource sharing, and training.

For more information, please contact:

Heather Wishart, PhD
Department of Psychiatry
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Address: One Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, NH 03756
Email: heather.a.wishart@hitchcock.org or wishart@dartmouth.edu
Phone: 603-650-5824

Members

We work in collaboration with Dartmouth's SYNERGY and SYNERGY Imaging Sciences Group.

Current research groups and projects

Cancer Research

Principal Investigator: Heather Wishart, PhD

We are participating in a number of studies related to brain health in people with cancer. One study aims to determine why some patients with glioma have relatively intact cognition while others experience significant deficits in memory, concentration, or other cognitive functions. Using a cognitive-genetics approach, this study will identify genotype predictors of cognitive outcomes in adults with glioma, taking factors such as tumor size, location, and treatment into account. This study, initiated by our group, has grown to a multicenter collaboration. We hope the results will identify factors that are protective of cognition in individuals with glioma. We are also developing and testing of a new self-administered test that leverages advanced in voice-recognition technology to facilitate widespread cognitive screening in patients with breast cancer.

Patients are informed by their clinicians at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center about studies for which they may be eligible.

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Executive Functions and Motivation Research

Principal Investigator: Robert M. Roth, PhD, ABPP

Our team is focused on executive functions and motivation (e.g., apathy, reward) in psychiatric, neurologic and other conditions including assessment, neural substrates, contribution to clinical presentation, and treatment. The characterization, correlates, and validity of self-reported cognitive problems is also a central interest to our team. To that end, we use multiple research tools including neuropsychological and psychological tests and questionnaires, structural and functional brain imaging (MRI/fMRI), as well as neurogenetics. A further interest of our team is neuropsychological test development, and currently we are collaborating with engineers at Creare, LLC, in the development of computerized cognitive tests.

We are enrolling patients with Parkinson's disease, mild Alzheimer’s disease, mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, and healthy control participants for our study on computerized cognitive tests.

For more information or to volunteer as a study participant, please contact Courtney Lawn, BA, at Courtney.L.Lawn@hitchcock.org.

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HIV

Principal Investigator: Jay Buckey, MD

Neurocognitive disorders are a devastating consequence of HIV infection, which occur despite active antiretroviral treatment. The central nervous system (CNS) can serve as a reservoir for HIV, and continued immune activation of macrophages and microglia in the brain can lead to central neurological signs and symptoms, including HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). HIV treatment may also have neurological effects. Reliable biomarkers of CNS effects in HIV infection and treatment are essential to diagnose and track this debilitating consequence of HIV. Traditionally, neurocognitive test batteries are used, which can be time-consuming, labor-intensive, and sometimes stressful for the patient. These conventional test batteries can be insensitive to early or subclinical changes and complicated by comorbidities (ADHD, learning disabilities). An alternate way to assess central nervous system function in HIV infection may be through the physiological assays of the central auditory network.

In our NIDCD-funded research in both Tanzania and Shanghai, China we have shown that HIV+ individuals have signs of a central auditory processing deficit, including a strong negative relationship between cognitive performance and the ability to understand speech in background noise (despite normal peripheral hearing determined by audiometric thresholds), higher gap detection thresholds (another sign of a central auditory deficit) in HIV+ adults even though peripheral hearing is intact, and changes on neuro-electrophysiological tests (frequency-following response). These findings likely reflect dysfunction in the auditory network in these patients, since detecting gaps, processing sound, and interpreting speech in noise are demanding CNS tasks involving the auditory network and its connections to other circuits and centers. This offers the possibility of assessing the CNS effects of HIV infection and treatment using central auditory test batteries. Central auditory effects might appear earlier than or independently from other neurological or neuropsychological test findings, so detecting these changes could complement or enhance current testing methods. For central auditory effects to be used as a biomarker, however, the changes in the auditory network need to be correlated with central auditory findings and neurocognitive testing results.

The Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center follows a cohort of over 6000 HIV positive individuals and has extensive neuroimaging capabilities. Together, we have established the ability to make detailed central auditory processing measures. Our study will perform neuroimaging of the auditory network and its connections in HIV+ people both with (n=60) and without (n=60) HAND, including resting-state and auditory task-based fMRI, neuro-electrophysiological testing, and diffusion basis spectral imaging, which will be correlated to performance on behavioral central auditory tests and compared to results from an HIV- group. These data will show whether central auditory tests could serve as a “window” to assess the CNS co-morbidities of HIV infection.

Mental Fatigue

Principal Investigator: Glenn Wylie, DPhil

The goal of the Mental Fatigue team is to better understand mental fatigue in both healthy individuals and following brain injury or disease. We have developed techniques to induce mental fatigue while participants are in the MRI scanner and to then relate brain activation patterns to the experience of mental fatigue. This work has shown that a specific network of brain areas is associated with fatigue in healthy volunteers, veterans with Gulf War Illness, individuals who have sustained a TBI, and in individuals with MS. More recently, we have shown that mental fatigue relies on some of the same brain areas that are associated with executive control, suggesting that mental fatigue may be one mechanism the brain uses to tell itself that the cognitive work required to perform a given task no longer merits the effort required to perform that work.

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Mood Disorders Program

Principal Investigator: Paul E. Holtzheimer, MD

Dr. Holtzheimer's research program is focused on the neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders, primarily treatment-resistant depression. In addition to structural and functional neuroimaging, techniques include focal neuromodulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation.

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Research

Principal Investigator: Heather Wishart, PhD

The MS Team is working to improve scientific understanding of the neural basis of MS with the ultimate goal of contributing to improvement in patient care, including early identification of factors that can be modified to slow disease progression and improve outcomes. We are also working to identify brain structural and functional changes that may underlie the development of specific MS symptoms such as cognitive impairment, motor dysfunction, and pain. Techniques include structural and functional imaging, imaging genetics, and neuropsychological assessments.

We are currently enrolling adults with MS and healthy control participants. For more information or to volunteer as a study participant, please contact us.

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Pediatric Neuropsychology Research

Principal Investigator: Jonathan Lichtenstein, PsyD, MBA

The pediatric neuropsychology team focuses mainly on research pursuits that can inform evidence-based clinical practice with children and families. Our areas of focus are currently diverse, with emphasis in the areas of concussion management and performance validity assessment. A large-scale implementation project is currently underway with a focus on return to learn protocols with high school and middle school populations. Data collection is also ongoing for improving test methods for children and adolescents.

Additional areas of interest for our team include novel interventions to enhance TBI recovery (yoga and mindfulness), cancer histories and their impact upon social performance, supported employment for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, and pediatric concussion.

We are also currently enrolling subjects in our study of cancer and social performance. We are seeking participants between the ages of 8 and 18 with cancer histories. For more information, or to find out how to participate, please contact: Jennifer Randolph, MS, 603-650-2665.

We are enrolling in our study of a new method for detection of brain processing changes in college athletes with concussion. Potential participants are recruited through their sports program. For all other inquiries, contact us.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Principle Investigator: Lauren Sippel, PhD

The PTSD projects in the Brain Research Network focus on characterization of trauma-related social, cognitive, affective, and neurobiological processes and how they operate in interpersonal contexts to influence risk for PTSD and recovery from PTSD. Current projects include studies of the role of oxytocin on neural correlates of socioemotional processing among individuals with PTSD and an examination of the role of family support in returning veterans' mental health treatment-seeking. With Dr. Meghan Meyer (Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College), Dr. Sippel is conducting the first examination of the neural correlates of social working memory in PTSD. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop novel interventions to remediate the symptoms and interpersonal problems experienced by individuals with PTSD.

Contact

If you are interested in participating in Dr. Sippel's research, please contact Laurie Waterman at 802-296-6376.