Carl Faingold, Ph.D.
Research Interests and Specialties:
The Faingold lab investigates brain function and how epilepsy, alcoholism, chronic pain, and anticonvulsants alter this function. We use several techniques in our experiments, including neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and neuroimaging in intact behaving animals to investigate these problems. The billions of neurons in the brain are organized into networks that are responsible for both normal and abnormal brain function. Epilepsy, alcoholism, and neuropathic pain all produce abnormal neuronal network function, involving brain areas that are capable of undergoing major operational changes due to neuroplasticity. Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder of brain networks in man, and a major devastating consequence is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Alcoholism is a major health problem, and the neurobiology of alcohol withdrawal is poorly understood. Neuropathic pain involves abnormal responses to non-painful stimuli, and the brain mechanisms involved require further research. Current treatments do not adequately control these conditions. SUDEP in epilepsy patients involve breathing problems associated with seizures, and we are investigating a mouse SUDEP model and evaluating drugs that may be useful in SUDEP prevention. Another major goal of the lab is to understand brain mechanisms that produce seizures and to identify anticonvulsant drugs which prevent abnormal brain activity without affecting normal function. Many of these anticonvulsants are also effective in treating alcohol withdrawal and neuropathic pain. To better understand network functions in health and disease, we evaluate neurotransmitters, which govern neuronal excitability by giving drugs that modify transmitter action. Brain surgery and computer-assisted single cell recording are methods we use to test the effects of drugs on brain network sites in conscious animals. The experiments involve animals with genetically-based epilepsy and animals subject to ethanol withdrawal or neuropathic pain. This research is identifying specific neuronal networks and specific neurotransmitters that are involved in these processes, which include GABA, glutamate, and serotonin. These substances are normal neurotransmitters, but their effects are altered in these brain disorders. Completion of these research goals will improve the understanding of normal and abnormal brain function and improve the treatment of these neurological disorders.