The Michael Group
University of Pittsburgh

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Our research focuses on real time chemical analysis in the central nervous system.  Analytical chemistry has an important role to play in generating new understanding not only of normal brain function but also the pathology of various brain diseases as well as brain injury.  In order to fulfill this role, it will be necessary to develop reliable analytical methods and techniques capable of producing novel and significant results not presently accessible by other means. 

The significance attached to monitoring brain chemistry in a direct way is easy to explain.  Many neurological and psychiatric disorders are treated with drugs that modulate chemical signaling within the central nervous system but relatively little is known about those chemical signals per se or how therapeutic drugs alter them.  That matters because many disorders remain very difficult treat and even more difficult to cure.

Much of our work focuses on the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which participates in motor function, cognition, and emotional regulation.  Dopamine pathology contributes to Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and substance abuse, just to name a few.  We measure dopamine by microelectrochemical methods, which are explained on the research pages of this web site.  Our recent progress has produced new insights in to the measurements themselves as well as new understanding of the kinetic and mass transport parameters that determine dopamine’s dynamic processes in the brain extracellular space.

The microelectrochemical method we use to measure dopamine has many technical advantages but requires that the target molecule be electrochemically active.  Many molecules of great significance in brain function are not electrochemically active.  Microdialysis is available as an alternative means for measuring a broad variety of interesting molecules but presents a challenge because the probes are sufficiently large to injure the brain tissue as they are inserted.  As the research pages on this web site explain, our objective is to mitigate the impact of the insertion injury as means to refine and enhance the technique.

Our laboratory is quite unique because we investigate both microelectrochemistry and microdialysis side by side at the same time.