Department of Neurology Research and Research Partners

Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration

The UF CMDNR is founded on the philosophy that integrated, interdisciplinary care is the most effective approach for patients with movement disorders and disorders involving a group of circuits in the brain called the basal ganglia. The Center delivers motor, cognitive and behavioral diagnoses as well as various treatments, all in one centralized location. Care is coordinated and provided by leading specialists from many advanced medical and surgical services. The center lives on a single floor (4th floor of the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute on 34th street across the street from the UF Hilton) and has over 15,000 square feet of dedicated interdisciplinary space. All specialists live together in an avant-garde side by side arrangement– with clinical services, an automatic gait and balance machine, rehabilitation services, a MRI, a swallow suite, laboratory space, a database, a telemedicine room, and dedicated clinical trials space. The space and architecture plan are unique, and everything about the center is patient-centric all the way down to the art on the walls–all contributed by actual UF patients. Patients can stay the night at the hotel, walk across the street, see multiple specialists in a single day, and check out all the clinical trials. Though UF has had a PD center since 2002, the ribbon cutting for the new patient-centered experience occurred on April 18, 2011, and the first patient and caregiver seen in the center were former Attorney General Janet Reno and her sister Maggy Hurchalla.

Built on the expertise of the UF faculty and researchers from 17 different specialty and subspecialty areas, the CMDNR has earned a reputation for excellence and it has become an international destination for patient care, research and teaching in PD, movement disorders and neurorestoration. At UF, patients have access to the latest clinical/translational research studies, as well as the opportunity to contribute to future research. Since its creation less than a decade ago, the Center has treated more than 9,000 patients, the majority of whom continue to be followed in one of the largest databases of movement disorders in the world (UF-INFORM).

The international prominence of the CMDNR is reflected by the multiple Centers of Excellence. These include a National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence, Tyler’s Hope Center for a Dystonia Cure, a Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center, a Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia Parkinson Center of Excellence, a Tourette Syndrome Association Center of Excellence, and the NIH designated headquarters of the nationwide Clinical Research Consortium for Spinocerebellar Ataxias.

The UF CMDNR includes clinicians and researchers from the fields of neurology, neurosurgery, neuroscience, neuropsychology, speech and communication disorders, physical therapy/rehabilitation, psychiatry, neuropathology, bioengineering, radiology, social work, nursing, and computer science.

In recent years, neurosurgical procedures for the treatment of PD, essential tremor, dystonia, OCD, Tourette and other movement/neuropsychiatric disorders have become important and exciting areas for both patient care and research. UF has been a pioneer in these operations and a leader in DBS for many disorders including OCD, Tourette, and multiple sclerosis tremor. Appropriately selected patients may benefit from intervention with deep brain stimulation therapy(DBS), or ablative procedures such as pallidotomy, subthalamotomy, or thalamotomy. The CMDNR has a particular expertise in the surgical treatment of movement disorders offering all currently available procedures. An interdisciplinary staff performs care and research directed at improving the delivery and efficacy of these novel surgical treatments. The operating room at the UF is equipped with the finest instruments available including microelectrode recording, physiology, and imaging capabilities. Many of the instruments used at UF have been invented or refined by the UF team.

The team at UF is a large interdisciplinary DBS team offering careful selection, improved targeting, refined microelectrode mapping, and a full-time dedicated DBS programming nurse and staff. Over the last decade UF has led or has been a participating center in over half a dozen major NIH DBS trials, and UF has implanted over 1400 leads. The center is the home to a DBS troubleshooting clinic where over 50 patients a year travel to UF from around the US and world to be evaluated for a “DBS failure.”

In addition to the world class surgical services, UF has a Clinical Trials Center offering patients the latest in all new drug, botulinum toxin, behavioral therapies, and device therapies. The clinical trials program offers over 50 trials in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, industry, and with foundations.

The space for PD and movement disorders includes 21 dedicated patient exam rooms, as well as tailored space for clinical trials, research, telemedicine, and for the movement disorders databases. The space is equipped with a full physical therapy, occupational therapy, neuropsychology, psychiatry, and speech therapy area, and convenient in building access to a MRI and swallow suite. The center staff is specifically trained to arrange patient specific and coordinated rehabilitation programs either within the building, or alternatively in another UF-Shands location in the city or within the state.

The CMDNR provides both the finest possible coordinated interdisciplinary care for patients, but also by providing each patient with an opportunity to become part of the Institutional Review Board approved research protocol titled quantitative measures in movement disorders. Patients have the option to sign an informed consent and to allow data from all visits to be collected, stored, de-identified, and made available for researchers in the field. This database has over 9000 patients and is one of the largest prospective PD and movement disorders databases in the world. The data for recruitment and also for study related purposes is fully available for our investigators. The center is also home to a NIH T32 pre-doctoral (PhD) training program in Movement Disorders.


Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases

The Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease (CTRND) is a sister center to the CMDNR. The centers work in unison with one focusing on clinical and clinical research and the other on transaltional basic science. The CTRND has a state of the art, multi-disciplinary research center focused on the discovery, development and evaluation of future treatments and diagnostics for degenerative central nervous system conditions including PD, Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisFrontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, and Stroke. The yearly cost for PD and Alzheimer’s disease are estimated to be well over $500 billion per year and will likely reach several trillion dollars by 2050. Due to its large population and high percentage of elderly the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and PD in Florida is particularly large. This center enhances the understanding of the disease processes so that new therapies based on new discoveries can be developed. Discoveries in this center have created opportunities to develop novel preclinical models, explore fundamental mechanisms of disease, identify new therapeutic targets, and to ultimately develop and test novel therapies for PD, where in some cases there is little commercial or industry interest. Todd Golde, M.D. PhD. was recruited to the UF in late 2009 to build the CTRND. The center has tremendous intellectual capital, a diversity of faculty, a richness of resources, and an entrepreneurial spirit. The center has been translating basic discoveries in neurodegenerative disease into potentially more effective medical therapies. The goal of the center is to create a unique model that will not only support the best possible basic discovery programs but also the translation of those basic discoveries into tangible advances that benefit Alzheimer’s disease, PD and other neurodegenerative patients.  The center has 7 R01’s, 1 program project grant, and many foundation grants.


McKnight Brain Institute

In 1991, the UF, through its Health Science Center, College of Medicine and its teaching hospital, Shands at UF, made a strategic decision to create a unique campus-wide program to harness and to enhance the multidisciplinary research, clinical care and educational skills of the entire university and thus maximize the ability to confront the awesome challenges brought on by nervous system disorders. This program was named the University of Florida Brain Institute (UFBI). With a $36,000,000 initial investment (grant plus a University match) and another $20,000,000 DOD grant for the project, it was erected on October 22, 1998. The Institute was renamed the Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida (MBI-UF) to celebrate and commemorate a $15,000,000 gift from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation. At the time this award was the largest cash gift in UF history and it was matched by the State of Florida to help create an over $30,000,000 permanent endowment devoted to fundamental research on the mechanisms underlying the formation, storage and retrieval of memories, the impairments in these processes associated with aging, and the development of therapeutic strategies for the prevention and/or alleviation of these impairments in humans. The “Brain Institute” membership in 1992 was approximately 144 faculty from 8 colleges and 33 departments and it has continued to grow with over 300 affiliated researchers on campus. Six platform programmatic research initiatives have been established to bring together scientists and clinical investigators working in age-related cognitive decline; brain cancer; central nervous system injury; chronic neurological diseases; development, regeneration and rehabilitation; and, mental health, neurobehavioral sciences, and addiction.

Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Facility (AMRIS)

Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Facility “AMRIS” is a state-of-the-art NMR facility for high-resolution solution NMR, solid-state NMR, microimaging, animal imaging, and human imaging. AMRIS is a facility in the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida and was developed, in part, through a grant from the Department of Defense. All of AMRIS systems are available to University of Florida and external academic and industrial scientists.


Department of Neuroscience

The Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine, the second oldest Neuroscience department in the country, is proudly celebrating over four decades of commitment to excellence in research and education concerning the role of the nervous system in health and disease.  The department is home to 22 primary tenured or tenure-track faculty, and has over 80 affiliate faculty members representing seven Colleges of the University of Florida.  The affiliate members of the department are key for our interdisciplinary research programs as well as our educational mission.  The faculty in the Department of Neuroscience study the nervous system from many perspectives, from the isolation and study of molecules and cells mediating neural function and development, to the study of the cellular ensembles engaged in high-level neural processing in the normal and diseased nervous system. Major research themes include studies on the physiology of brain aging and aging-associated cognitive decline; brain and spinal cord injury, and neural tissue plasticity and regeneration; neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and demyelinating diseases. Academic productivity by the primary faculty of the department in terms of annually research publications and presentations typically exceeds 130 primary contributions to the literature, with over 50% of these articles in top tier peer reviewed journals with impact factors between 38.6 and 5.0. In AY15, Neuroscience faculty authored several high profile publications in Nature, Neuron, PNAS and Acta Neuropathologica, some of which have received national news coverage. Neuroscience faculty served on numerous national and international editorial boards, federal and private research advisory and review panels. In AY15, the overall grant portfolio of the department exceeded $8.4 M, with NIH grants comprising $7.4M of these funds.


Department of Neurology

The Department of Neurology at the University of Florida (Gainesville) has long been known for excellence in clinical teaching and for our programs in movement disorders, neuromuscular disorders, epilepsy and behavioral neurology. In the past decade, our faculty has more than doubled, and we are currently building a completely freestanding Neuromedicine hospital set to open in 2017. As part of the growth for the hospital we will be expanding by 20 more neurologists, inclusive of growing research and care in PD and in neurodegenerative disease. The department has open dialogues with faculty in other departments at the MBI-UF and the Health Sciences Center, creating a fertile environment for collaboration in basic and clinical research. The department has clinical research interdisciplinary programs in PD and Movement Disorders, Alzheimer’s/Behavioral Neurology, Neuromuscular Disorders, Neurorehabilitation, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, and Stroke. The department has in-patient ward and consultative services and out-patient care at UF Health Shands Hospital and at the Malcom Randall Veterans Administration Hospital. UF Health Shands is consistently ranked among the best hospitals in the United States. There is a large residency program and a medical student clerkship run out of the department. The department has fellowships in multiple areas and the fellows are all engaged in research as well as clinical care.


Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology

The UF Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology has a strong history of research funding and provides extensive laboratory space, pre- and post-award clerical staff, and other resources dedicated to assist investigators for successful state-of-the-art research. The Department of Neurology is a primary research partner with the Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. In 2014-2015 the Department had over $1,700,000 in direct cost expenditures from the NIH and the VA and additionally over $500,000 in direct costs supported by industry, foundations and the University. Recent APK grants not included in this total are 4 new NIH research grants, one NIH T32 training grant, 1 Department of Defense grant and 2 American Heart Association grants. The department has extensive dedicated research space with 8,869 square ft. for animal research and 7839 sq ft. for human research. We have 2 dedicated transportation vehicles and patient parking areas to transport research subjects to and from UF Health and College of Medicine facilities. Our laboratories include several shared core facilities with state-of-the art equipment for cell culture, molecular biology, biochemical analyses, neuroimaging analyses, electrophysiology, locomotion, exercise training and motor performance evaluation. The department has 17 tenure track faculty whose academic productivity remains very high, with 89 pier reviewed research papers published in 2014-2015. The average Web of Science h-index for tenure track faculty as of fall 2015 was 26.


Department of Biomedical Engineering

The J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida is made possible by the vision and generosity of Dr. J. Crayton Pruitt and his family. Since its inception in 2002, the department continues to excel in interdisciplinary research that merges engineering with biology and medicine. The department offers both a graduate program and an undergraduate program (2012 inaugural class), with particular strengths in:

The J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering is one of only a few departments in the nation to be co-localized with a top-ranked medical school, veterinary school, and dental school.

The department is housed in a new state-of-the-art building (completed in 2010) that is co-located with the medical school and steps from engineering. The $90.5 million, 163,000-square-foot building houses researchers from the colleges of Medicine, Engineering, and Public Health and Health Professions, creating unique opportunities for new collaborations. Biomedical Engineering at UF partners with many local research centers and institutes including the Department of Neurology, the McKnight Brain Institute, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center.

In addition to its close proximity of health sciences, Biomedical Engineering is uniquely positioned to contribute to clinical translation of biomedical technologies because of the outstanding resources for entrepreneurship and commercialization, including Florida’s 40-acre Innovation Square and the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator. 

The Department of Biomedical Engineering is fully engaged with many collaborations in Department of Neurology translational research. There is a shared Brain Mapping Laboratory (Okun and Gunduz) and collaborative research in epilepsy (Cibula, Gireesh, Eisenschenk, and Ding).