Neurotrauma Research

The Brain Trauma Research Center (BTRC) at the University of Pittsburgh is a multidisciplinary research program aimed at improving outcome following severe traumatic brain injury. Research conducted both at our center and at other brain injury research programs clearly demonstrates the potential for improving outcomes using therapies designed to treat biochemical derangements that occur following impact to the brain. In order to identify the most critical of these sequelae of brain injury and to find newer therapies that are effective in treating them, the BTRC has established several basic science head injury laboratories and clinical research projects. 

C. Edward Dixon, PhD, leads the the Department of Neurological Surgery’s efforts in preclinical traumatic brain injury research. The research focuses on basic and translational efforts to study mechanisms of cognitive deficits after TBI and to evaluate novel interventions. Shaun Carlson, PhD, leads efforts on synaptic dysfunction mechanisms of TBI. The Department of Neurological Surgery has pioneered efforts in the study of presynaptic mechanisms of cognitive deficits after TBI. Preclinical TBI research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, Veterans Administration, and the Department of Defense.  

David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD, leads the department’s clinical research efforts as director of the Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center (NCTC). The NCTC performs wide-ranging studies, including clinical trials funded by federal agencies and industry to study new therapies, novel brain monitoring devices, advanced neuroimaging, and biomarkers. The center also houses the National TBI Biospecimens Repository. This repository, under the direction of Ava Puccio, RN, PhD, is the largest centralized collection of biological samples from traumatic brain injury patients in the United States. The Department of Neurological Surgery has pioneered efforts using hypothermia and cerebral blood flow monitoring in the treatment of severe head injury and has conducted landmark investigations into the mechanisms of induction and recovery of head trauma and secondary injury. 

The Safar Center for Resuscitation Research is directed by Patrick Kochanek, MD, of the Department of Critical Care, and has a strong collaborative and productive relationship with several members of the Brain Trauma Research Center. Dr. Dixon and Shaun Carlson, PhD, serve as associate directors of the Safar Center. The mission of the Safar Center is to improve understanding of the mechanisms of secondary injury after traumatic brain injury, cardiopulmonary arrest, severe hemorrhage from whatever cause, and to contribute to the development and implementation of novel and increasingly more effective therapies