Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and Neurobiology, Corina Bondi, Ph.D., was awarded a R01 grant entitled “Traumatic brain injury and aging: targeting the cholinergic system for deficits in sustained attention and executive function” from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Co-Investigators in this project include Anthony E. Kline, Ph.D., professor of PM&R, Critical Care Medicine, and Psychology, C. Edward Dixon, Ph.D., professor of Neurological Surgery, Anesthesiology, Neurobiology, and PM&R, and Gina McKernan, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor and Director, Biostatistics Core in PM&R.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) affect 2.8 million individuals each year in the USA and often cause long-lasting cognitive and mood alterations, with the greatest external cause for TBI being falls, especially in adults over 65 years of age. Dr. Bondi aims to characterize alterations in sustained attention, behavioral flexibility, and anxiety-like responses after experimental TBI in both young adult and aged, male and female rats, and to address mechanistic questions regarding altered cholinergic neurotransmission responsible for such behavioral impairments by restoring behavioral performance and cholinergic signaling with NS 1738 – a positive allosteric modulator of alpha-7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7 nAChRs). The drug will be used alone or in a combination with enriched environment, a preclinical model of neurorehabilitation. She will use complex operant chamber behavioral tasks, proteomic profiling using mass spectrometry to identify tissue and serum biomarkers correlating with neurobiological responses to aging, brain trauma, and treatment paradigms, as well as Western blotting for brain markers of cholinergic transmission. Positive allosteric modulators of α7 nAChRs are novel and promising therapies that can potentiate cellular signaling in the presence of endogenous acetylcholine, display high receptor selectivity, and may provide neuroprotective effects.

Dr. Bondi holds a BS in Neuroscience and Physics from Muskingum University in Ohio, and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology/Neuroscience from the University of Texas Health at San Antonio. She undertook a postdoctoral position in Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a second postdoctoral position at the Safar Center. She joined the faculty in PM&R in 2015 and became an Associate Director in Executive Function and Neuropharmacology at the Safar Center in 2017.