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Douglas Brusich: Spring-Loaded Neuroscience: Flies as a Model for Traumatic Brain Injury

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Flies as a Model for Traumatic Brain Injury


Millions of Americans experience traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. TBI causes headache, memory loss, disruptions to sleep and motor coordination, seizures, and even death. In spite of the incidence of TBI and its negative outcomes we have a limited understanding of underlying genetic and environmental risk factors that would help us make educated decisions. Moreover, we have few ways to treat symptoms, some of which do not manifest until days to years after injury. Fruit flies have recently been established as a model for the study of TBI. Flies have several advantages over existing mammalian models. Flies reproduce quickly, they have a short lifespan and are cheap to maintain, their genes are similar to human genes, and, most importantly, they faithfully exhibit the same major outcomes as humans following injury. Moreover, injury conditions can be scaled to address mild to severe TBI, and flies are amenable to genetic and pharmacological intervention across their lifespan. I will share my lab’s recent advances with the fly model of TBI and discuss ways in which fruit flies can be fully utilized to make discoveries valuable to human health.

Photo by: Daniel Moore

Photo by Daniel Moore


Dr. Doug Brusich earned his PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology from the University of Iowa in 2015. His graduate work focused on use of a fruit fly model for human migraine which resulted in novel discovery of an intracellular calcium signaling pathway underlying aspects of neuronal hyperexcitability. Dr. Brusich then taught for two years at Wartburg College (Waverly, IA) where he set-up his independent research lab for the study of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and epilepsy using a fruit fly model. Dr. Brusich was hired at UWGB in Fall 2017 and is currently an Assistant Professor in Human Biology. Dr. Brusich’s lab continues to use fruit flies to study both TBI and resulting seizures.

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