Erin Lee

Neural Mechanisms of Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and strokes are ongoing public health crises, taking millions of lives annually and leaving survivors chronically disabled. They commonly affect the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an integrative center for the brain’s reward and decision-making circuit. Thus, damage to the OFC can cause behavioral deficits, including impulsivity and impaired decision-making. My research examines the brain’s capacity for compensatory and functional reorganization in intact tissue following injury or lesion, which is crucial to furthering the clinical potential of neurorehabilitation. Previous analyses done by the D’Esposito Lab have found that connectivity between two other subcortical reward regions, the midbrain and hippocampus, mediates impulsivity in OFC lesion patients. However, a baseline analysis with healthy subjects is needed to clarify whether these changes in hippocampal-subcortical connectivity are a direct compensatory response to OFC lesions or just spontaneous variations, which is the purpose of my research. If my hypothesis is correct, the relationship between impulsivity and connectivity will be weaker in healthy versus OFC lesion subjects, suggesting that strengthening in this pathway acts as a functional replacement for an impaired OFC to mitigate impulsivity.

Message to Sponsor

I want to express my genuine gratitude to my sponsor for funding my summer research project and giving me the opportunity to participate in this incredible learning experience. I am very excited to begin this project with my mentor as a part of SURF. This project is the highlight of my academic career thus far, and it would not have been possible without your generous support.
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology; Nutritional Sciences
  • Sponsor: Leadership Fund
  • Mentor: Mark D'Esposito