Austin Bruce

Austin Bruce, Ph.D. student, Neuroscience

Decodes the brain's clock

• Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Nandakumar Narayanan, Associate Professor of Neurology
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date?  Ph.D., Neuroscience, expected graduation date August, 2023
• Please describe your research: The mechanisms by which the brain internally represents time are largely unknown.  I am trying to understand how the nigrostriatal dopamine system, a brain circuit degenerated in Parkinson’s Disease, supports this fundamental ability.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Timing draws upon higher-order thought processes such as working memory and attention and is often impaired in patients with brain disease.  Therefore, timing provides an avenue for investigating cognitive dysfunction in diseases such as schizophrenia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.  Understanding the neural circuitry of timing could lead to innovative treatments that improve patients’ quality of life.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? Research is a core component of my program, and I was able to participate in research from my very first day on campus.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? My research here has allowed me to develop a unique set of technical and analytical skills that nobody else has.  Communicating my science has enabled me to grow a professional network of leading-edge scientists and physicians across the world.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I am passionate about how my science translates to a better understanding of neurological disease processes.  My goal is to find a faculty position at a medical college which will allow me to be involved both in basic medical education and in furthering my own independent research.

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