Research Programs

As part of the largest medical school in the country, the Department of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine has made great strides in transforming patient lives through comprehensive research. Built on a long tradition of work in cerebrovascular disease, the many subspecialty programs are dynamic, multidisciplinary groups focused on improved prevention and treatment.

For example, the stroke program is focused on clinical trials for stroke prevention and acute treatment of stroke, and investigational work continues in the treatment of involuntary movement disorders. The neuromuscular program is pursuing electrophysiology and therapeutic trials for treatment of ALS and myasthenia gravis, and the epilepsy program is focused on research in electrophysiology and a comprehensive epilepsy surgery component.

The Department of Neurology continues to build upon its rich tradition of research and discovery in preclinical and clinical neurologic research. Cutting edge investigations in a wide array of therapeutic areas are supported by federal grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Aging, and the National Science Foundation. The faculty in this department also have an extensive track record of successfully partnering with other academic medical centers throughout the United States and the pharmaceutical industry to test and refine new treatments.

The Department of Neurology is focused on numerous areas of research, including Alzheimer’s disease, neuromuscular disorders, epilepsy, movement disorders, neuropsychology, pediatric neurology and stroke.

Subspecialty Research Programs

Early Diagnosis, Risk Assessment and Biomarker Development

Program Director: Liana Apostolova, MD

Apostolova’s research group focuses on the characterization of early symptomatic and pre-symptomatic stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the development and validation of sensitive imaging and genetic biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementing disorders. The research program is affiliated with the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, the Center for Neuroimaging, the Indiana University Network Sciences Institute, the Center for Enhancing Quality of Life in Chronic Illness, as well as the Departments of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Medical and Molecular Genetics, Pathology, Psychiatry and Sociology.

Active Research Projects

Azheimer’s Clinical Trials Program (ACT)

Program Director: Martin R. Farlow, MD

Specialists in the Department of Neurology collaborate with colleagues in the Departments of Psychiatry, Medical and Molecular Genetics, Pathology and Medicine to offer an integrated approach to evaluation and treatment of patients with cognitive complaints, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Department physician scientists’ conduct—and have a decades-long history of conducting—clinical research studies of the latest investigational drugs targeting Alzheimer’s disease.

Program Director: David A. Kareken, PhD

The Department of Neurology is home to the NIH-funded Indiana Alcohol Research Center, which studies genetic, behavioral and central nervous system factors that engender and maintain alcohol use disorders. The neuropsychology section also conducts related NIH-funded research in the human behavioral neuroscience of alcoholism risk factors using techniques such as function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.

Program Director: Karen Roos, MD

IU School of Medicine’s Central Nervous System Infectious Disease Program enjoys a national and international reputation. Primary areas of interest are meningitis, encephalitis (viral and parainfectious encephalomyelitis) and infections in immunosuppressed individuals due to organ transplantation, cancer, immunosuppressive therapies or HIV infection. State-of-the-art molecular diagnostic studies for HSV, VZV, CMV, HHV-6, HIV and TB are available as well as established and innovative therapies.

Program Director: Omkar N. Markand, MD

The IU School of Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Program in the Department of Neurology is the only program in Indiana providing comprehensive management, diagnostic investigations to localize epileptogenic foci (a prerequisite for surgical treatment) and social, psychiatric and psychological evaluation of patients with epilepsy who have medically intractable seizures or complex diagnostic problems. Department of Neurology researchers have been national leaders in evaluating new treatment methodologies for epilepsy, notably studies that demonstrated the safety and long-term effectiveness of deep brain stimulation via implanted devices have provided substantial relief to patients resistant to drug and other surgical approaches.

Movement Disorders Program Director: Joanne M. Wojcieszek, MD

The IU School of Medicine Department of Neurology is a Huntington’s disease center of excellence, and the physician educators in this department treat Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tremor, and other movement disorders in alliance with the IU School of Medicine Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics. In addition to medical management, the team also offers botulinum toxin injections and deep brain stimulation for appropriate patients. Ongoing clinical trials for patients with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are being conducted.

Multiple Sclerosis Program Director: David H. Mattson, MD, PhD

The Indiana University Multiple Sclerosis Center at Indiana University School of Medicine earned designation as a Partner in MS Care–Center for Comprehensive and Coordinated Care from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Multiple Sclerosis/Neuroimmunology Program provides multidisciplinary care for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The Neuroimmunology/MS Program is a “center-without-walls,” which coordinates care from neurologic, nursing, psychological, physical therapy, rehabilitation and urologic perspectives. Clinical care incorporates the use of newer maintenance immunotherapies, including interferon-beta and glatiramer acetate, as well as new symptomatic treatments, such as intrathecal baclofen for spasticity and robotic therapy. The Multiple Sclerosis Research program participates in investigational new drug studies; some trials are single-site studies at IU School of Medicine and others are part of national and international multicenter consortiums.

Laurence E. Walsh, MD 

The Indiana University Neurofibromatosis Clinic is based at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. It is the only clinic for comprehensive care of those with neurofibromatosis in the state of Indiana. IU School of Medicine scientists have been leaders in researching the molecular basis of neurofibromatosis and developing new treatment options based on the work. For example, IU School of Medicine investigators discovered that the anti-cancer drug Gleevec could be used as a therapy in neurofibromatosis type 1, making it the first effective treatment for the tumors affecting many NF1 patients.

Neuromuscular Disorders Program Director: John C. Kincaid, MD
Neuro-oncology Program Director: Edward J. Dropcho, MD
Neuropyschology Program Director: David Kareken, PhD ABPP 

The Neuro-oncology Program combines the expertise of neurologists, neurosurgeons, and radiation and medical oncologists to explore pre-eminent advances in tumor treatment. This program, focusing on patients with primary and metastatic tumors of the brain and spine, is exceptional in its ability to integrate all aspects of care, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

The Neuropsychology Program provides comprehensive examinations of cognitive impairment in disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, head injury and epilepsy. Department scientists conduct research in brain-behavior relationships, using functional neuroimaging to map cortical functions in healthy individuals and in patients with neurological disease. A particular research interest of the program is functional brain imaging of human olfaction.

With an interdisciplinary health care team, the Department of Neurology provides comprehensive services for people affected by Parkinson’s disease, including medical evaluation and treatment, social services, and research opportunities. In addition to medical management, this team offers botulinum toxin injections and deep brain stimulation for appropriate patients. Ongoing clinical trials for patients with Parkinson’s disease are being conducted.

Program Director: Laurence E. Walsh, MD

Members of the Pediatric Neurology Program collaborate with others in the Department of Neurology and other Indiana University School of Medicine specialists to manage complex neurologic problems in children. All pediatric neurologists coordinate further management within the child’s home community. Pediatric neurologists provide expert evaluation and management of childhood neurologic disorders, including brain and spinal cord diseases, seizures, strokes, tumors, neuromuscular disorders, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and other genetic and non-genetic conditions involving the nervous system.

Program Director: James D. Fleck, MD

The stroke program in the IU School of Medicine Department of Neurology brings together neurologists and specialists from many departments dedicated to providing coordinated and best possible care to limit cerebrovascular disease incidence and reduce stroke-related disability in Indiana and beyond through innovations and excellence in education, research and patient care. Stroke program faculty are committed to educate and train future cerebrovascular specialists and to conduct clinical research to discover improved treatments for stroke.