Nicholas D Schiff   Professor of Neuroscience

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Dr. Nicholas Schiff directs an integrative translational research program with a primary focus on understanding the process of recovery of consciousness following brain injuries. This research program links basic systems and clinical neuroscience with the goal of developing novel neurophysiologic and neuroimaging diagnostics applied to human subjects and therapeutic strategies. Dr. Schiff and his research group have contributed several landmark advances, including the first demonstrations of brain structural alterations occurring in the setting of very late recovery from severe brain injury.

More recently, Dr. Schiff and his colleagues have taken insights into the neurophysiological mechanisms of arousal regulation and of deep brain electrical stimulation techniques to demonstrate evidence that long-lasting, severe cognitive disability may be influenced by electrical stimulation of the human central thalamus. Dr. Schiff received the 2007 Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience for this research. This work provides an important foundation for developing further understanding of both the mechanisms of recovery of consciousness and basic mechanisms underlying consciousness in the human brain.

Dr. Schiff and his colleagues demonstrated that long-lasting, severe cognitive disability may be influenced by electrical stimulation of the human central thalamus.

Dr. Schiff’s research involves close collaboration with investigators at the Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center and with long-standing colleagues Drs. Keith Purpura and Jonathan Victor in the Systems Neuroscience group. In collaborative studies with Dr. Purpura, animal models of central thalamic deep brain stimulation are providing fundamental understanding of the circuit mechanisms underlying this novel therapeutic method and insight into the thalamocortical mechanisms underlying arousal regulation and conscious behavior. In collaboration with Dr. Victor, methods of advanced signal processing are being developed and applied to the study of human brain electrical signals obtained from normal subjects and patients recovering from severe brain injuries.

The clinical and scientific program is paralleled by collaborative studies directed by Dr. Joseph Fins in the Departments of Public Health, Medicine, and Psychiatry. Dr. Fins’ studies are aimed at the ethical and policy dimensions of this research field, which has a unique and strong impact on medical practice. Dr. Schiff and Dr. Fins co-direct the CASBI (Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury) program. Dr. Schiff’s research program has a strong international reach through his leadership of a large consortium grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, which links his research team with groups at Cambridge University, University of Liege, Belgium, Harvard University, and Hebrew University, Israel. This international collective is focused on developing a large database to assess the specificity and sensitivity of novel diagnostic methods and to deepen clinical-pathologic correlations underlying recovery from severe brain injuries.


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