CBCB Seminar

October 16, 2023 3:30 PM

DBI, 15 Innovation Way, Conference room 102

Exploring Motor Control Deficits in Parkinson’s Disease: Insights from MRI Studies

Roxana Burciu, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology
University of Delaware
Director of the Motor Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Laboratory and Parkinson’s Disease Registry

Abstract: Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a wide range of motor control deficits. At its core, this neurological condition disrupts the intricate interplay between subcortical and cortical brain regions responsible for orchestrating fast and fluid movements. While significant insights into the pathophysiology of motor deficits in Parkinson’s disease have been gleaned from brain imaging studies focusing on upper limb movements, the neural correlates of lower limb and symptoms as well as coordination deficits remain largely unexplored mainly due to unique challenges posed by investigating more complex motor behaviors inside an MRI scanner. The goal of my research is to provide comprehensive insights into the intricacies of motor control deficits in Parkinson’s disease by combining novel behavioral assessments with multimodal MRI. In this talk, I will present data from recent studies conducted in our laboratory that highlight the widespread impact of Parkinson’s disease on force control during single-limb and multi-limb movements and unveil extensive functional brain changes that extend beyond the basal ganglia. Specifically, both the cortico-basal ganglia and cortico-cerebellar circuits seem to emerge as key players in the pathophysiology of simple and coordinated movements in Parkinson’s disease. I will also discuss future directions and how perhaps trying to restore brain activity within structures that extend beyond the dopaminergic pathways may complement current treatment approaches and improve some of the symptoms that are not as responsive to dopamine-replacement therapy n individuals with Parkinson’s disease (e.g., lower limb symptoms).

Bio: Roxana Gabriela Burciu is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware and director of the Motor Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Laboratory and Parkinson’s Disease Registry. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Romania. After completing her undergraduate studies, she continued her education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation from the University of Birmingham UK where she became interested in the way the brain controls movements in healthy and disease. She then went on to obtain a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Duisburg Essen Germany, where she was trained in cerebellar research as part of the “Cerebellar-Cortical Control: Cells, Circuits, Computation, and Clinic” Marie Curie Initial Training Network. Prior to joining the University of Delaware, she worked as research faculty at the University of Florida where she had previously completed a postdoc on imaging of basal ganglia disorders. Currently, Dr. Burciu uses a variety of non-invasive functional and structural brain imaging techniques coupled with comprehensive behavioral measures and genetics to investigate the intricate mechanisms underlying motor impairment in Parkinson’s disease. A major theme of her research is understanding how the brain and motor behavior change in Parkinson’s disease, and how this knowledge guides the development of structured approaches aimed at improving motor function in these patients. Her lab also engages in research dedicated to developing brain imaging markers for the prodromal phase of Parkinson’s disease.