Witold Lipski, PhD

  • Research Instructor

Witold Lipski, PhD received his undergraduate education in physics at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He completed his doctoral degree in neuroscience at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in the effects of stress on motivated behavior. There, he also became interested in the therapeutic mechanisms of deep brain stimulation (DBS), and investigated the behavioral and physiological effects of DBS in a rat model of obsessive compulsive disorder.

In 2013, he joined the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery as a post-doctoral scientist, where he helped establish a basic research program aimed at understanding the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor and the therapeutic action of DBS in these disorders. He was also involved in studies aimed at examining the network dynamics leading to seizures in epilepsy, and answering other basic research questions using neurophysiological recordings in epilepsy patients undergoing intracranial seizure monitoring.

After joining the department as a research instructor in 2017, Dr. Lipski has continued to use his expertise in neurophysiological recording and systems neuroscience to pursue both basic science and clinical research questions.

Dr. Lipski's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Basal ganglia contributions to production of speech and language; neural network dynamics in epilepsy; neurophysiological mechanism of motivated behavior.

Professional Organization Membership

American Epilepsy Society
Society for Neuroscience
Society for the Neurobiology of Language

Education & Training

  • BA, Physics, Colby College, 2000
  • PhD, Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, 2011

Research Activities

Speech encoding in the human subthalamic nucleus
Using single-unit neuronal recordings in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation electrode implantation for Parkinson’s disease, Dr. Lipski has developed a model of STN neuron firing during speech production based on phonetic and sequence elements of produced speech. This work demonstrated the phonetic and sequence encoding in individual STN neurons, with implications for understanding the role of the basal ganglia in speech production, as well as possible novel applications in responsive neuromodulation therapies for movement disorders.

Investigation and therapeutic neuromodulation of thalamo-cortical networks in focal epilepsy
Medically refractory epilepsy (MRE) is highly debilitating and lethal. Standard of care for focal MRE is surgical resection of the epileptogenic cortical area. However, in patients with seizures involving high eloquent areas such as the temporal, parietal and occipital (posterior quadrant) cortices, safe surgery cannot be performed due to the high risks for devastating neurological consequences such as speech and vision deficits. In this unserved patient population, thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) could represent a feasible and alternative option, but outcomes of pilot clinical studies evidenced suboptimal clinical efficacy, mainly in posterior quadrant epilepsies. One of the major impediments to improve thalamic DBS treatment for MRE in posterior-quadrant epilepsies is the lack of understanding on seizures organization and neural dynamics, e.g., how seizures are initiated, spread and terminate, and their relation to thalamic nuclei. In addition, despite considerable evidence for subcortical involvement in epilepsy collected over the past century, studies focus mainly on examining seizures in cortical brain regions, leaving largely unexplored the vast thalamocortical networks that are known to contribute in many aspects of cortical synchronization. Together with Jorge Gonzalez-Martinez, MD, PhD, and his team, Dr. Lipski is proposing a study to characterize the dynamic relation between thalamic nuclei and seizure neural dynamics in the human posterior quadrant cortex, with the long-term goal of identifying potentially effective targets/parameters of stimulation of thalamic DBS therapy for MRE. In preliminary investigations, Dr. Lipski has benefited from applying intracranial monitoring of brain activity via stereo-electroencephalography (SEEG) depth electrodes to study electrophysiological signatures of seizures in subcortical structures. Based on this preliminary evidence, he hypothesizes that thalamo-cortical networks critically participate in seizure initiation and termination via their reciprocal connections, in special, between the posterior thalamus (Pulvinar) and the posterior quadrant cortex. To verify this hypothesis, he proposes an investigation in human subjects with MRE that undergo SEEG monitoring to record neural dynamics in the thalamic nuclei and cortex simultaneously. Specifically, Dr. Lipski will analyze patterns of functional connectivity and in situ local field potential recordings obtained at rest and during stimulation of the thalamic nuclei.