William “Jamie” Tyler, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has received a 2012 McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award. 

He is being honored for a promising avenue of research that could provide powerful insights into brain circuitry and yield a novel approach to treating neurological and psychiatric diseases.

The McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards are given annually to advance the range of technologies available for studying the brain and the diseases that affect it. Tyler will share his award, which will provide $200,000 over two years, with a collaborator, Doris Tsao, an assistant professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology. 

A key goal of their project, Tyler says, is to discover the optimal ultrasound parameters that will allow the robust modulation of brain activity patterns and behavior. The project – based largely on Tyler’s earlier advances in understanding how ultrasound can modulate the electrical signaling of neurons – is one of four selected from a field of more than 65 applications.

“This research represents an important step in the development of new, noninvasive approaches for modulating the activity of select circuits in the brain,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “It shows promise for treating debilitating disorders in humans, including Parkinson’s disease, major depression, stroke, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, chronic pain, dystonia, and addiction. Surgical interventions such as deep-brain stimulation can treat some of these disorders, but they carry the risks associated with any brain surgery. Jamie’s approach opens new avenues for treating a host of diseases noninvasively.”

“I’m excited to be working with Doris on this project,” Tyler said. “I have high hopes that we can uncover how pulsed ultrasound affects the primate brain, which will lead to improved approaches for mapping brain functions in humans.”

Tyler earned his doctorate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. Before joining the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute faculty in 2011, he served as an assistant professor of neurobiology and bioimaging at Arizona State University. In 2010, he received the Arizona Governor’s Innovator of the Year Award for Academia. Tyler recently founded Neurotrek, a company based in Roanoke, Va., and Los Gatos, Calif.

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