Improving Brain Resilience to Injury and Aging

Our lab's research is broadly concerned with promoting healthy brain aging / increasing an individual's "health-span", and generally falls into 1 of 3 overlapping categories: Characterizing models of neurodegeneration, Preventing neurodegeneration and/or increasing the brain's resiliency, and Characterizing the effects of plant-based compounds (phytochemicals) in the brain.

Our main interests lie in exploring the interface between acute and/or chronic brain injury (e.g., TBI, stroke, radiation) and subsequent neurodegeneration (e.g., Alzheimer’s, chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and in dissecting the mechanisms by which phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols) can influence the brain's recovery and function under these conditions.

We have shown that traumatic brain injury can accelerate the development of Alzheimer's-like neuropathology in rodents and that preventing accumulation of amyloid plaques in their brains with a monoclonal antibody or dietary phytochemicals can prevent the age-related decline in cognition seen in these animals.

We have also demonstrated in flies, rodents, and humans that polyphenols can improve cognitive and physical performance, protect against stress-induced depression, and reduce neuropathology after brain damage. Presumably, the beneficial effects of polyphenols (including the phenolic acids and flavonoids) are mediated by their ability to suppress inflammatory pathways and activate antioxidant pathways.

Project Faculty

Dr. Rich Hartman