Alexander Baradari ’17, a neuroscience major, said that he wants to help improve the lives of individuals affected by debilitating diseases. This summer as a research intern, he is studying Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Lab, part of the Select Medical Research Hospital in West Orange, N.J., in order to increase the understanding of the disease. His summer research advisor is Dr. Brian Yao.
Baradari has been interested in the inner workings of the brain and the nervous system since he took the neuroscience course Brain and Behavior his sophomore year. While MS was only briefly touched upon in the class, he wanted to learn more about it and how to help people affected by it.
The cause of MS is still unclear and there is no known cure for the disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system, hindering the ability of different areas of the nervous system from communicating. When myelin, an insulating layer essential for the function of nervous system, around the axons are damaged, as they are in MS, various symptoms can arise, such as muscle weakness, double vision and trouble with coordination.
Baradari and other researchers use FMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) as well as EEGs (electroencephalogram) to scan both healthy people and patients with MS. The individuals go through a medley of tasks, such as force measurement and memory recall exercises while being scanned. Learning how to analyze the brain waves and images, and understanding what they mean have been his favorite parts of the study.
When the study is completed, the team will look at the differences in brain waves and brain images between the members of the control group, and the MS patients. The goal is to better understand what causes this disorder so that at minimum the treatment options available for those suffering from MS can be increased. After Hamilton, Baradari would like to do similar research, and then attend medical school.