Presented by Bruce S. McEwen on behalf of Donald W. Pfaff
B.S., Rhodes College
Deep Brain Stimulation to Increase Generalized Arousal in Intact Mice and a Mouse Model of Traumatic Brain Injury
Don Pfaff had an obligation that prevents him from being here. As a member of Amy Wells Quinkert’s thesis committee I am delighted to do the honors. Don writes:
The most fundamental and powerful function in the brain is called “generalized central nervous system arousal,” essential for consciousness and for the initiation of all human behaviors. Traumatic brain injuries, by car accidents or war injuries, for example, are devastating because they damage generalized arousal pathways in the brain.
Amy Wells Quinkert has addressed these arousal mechanisms during her years at Rockefeller. Just before she began her thesis work, Nicholas Schiff, in the neurology department across the street at Cornell, startled everyone by using deep brain stimulation to provoke the recovery of consciousness of a patient who had been in a vegetative state. Amy, in work that was the first of its kind, demonstrated that the temporal patterning of such deep brain stimulation in laboratory animals could regulate stimulation effectiveness, even when all other physical characteristics of the stimulus pulses were held constant. Her most effective brain sites were in the central thalamus, amongst neurons whose axons project widely to the cerebral cortex. Further, her deep brain stimulation had the effect of changing behavioral patterns from those typical of the animal’s sleepy time of day to those typical of the animal’s normally active time of day. Thus, Amy could deal with a deep, global brain function in a precise and quantitative manner.
Preparing for Amy’s graduation, I was surprised to hear that she has a hobby, knitting. Surprised because, as a typical Rockefeller professor, I thought I had successfully reduced her spare time to zero!
In the race for the Ph.D., Amy has finished ahead of her husband, and when he is ready they’ll head for postdoctoral research in Boston.