Heather Clark, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences
Clark is a leading researcher in the field of nanosensors, and she is applying her expertise to reveal what has eluded generations of scientists: how, exactly, do the chemicals in our brains interact to generate emotions, thoughts, memories, and actions?
More precisely, how do neurotransmitters like glutamate, dopamine, or serotonin behave differently in a patient with Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia versus someone with a healthy brain? Without that knowledge, neuroscience researchers and clinicians are practically working in the dark.
To unlock the brain’s chemical secrets, Clark and her team are in the early stages of developing nanoparticles containing a particular menu of molecules.
These nanosensors will react with different chemicals, producing a detectable signal of brain chemistry in real time and allowing her team to map the brain in greater detail than ever before. This more nuanced understanding of how the brain works will enable an entirely new, and targeted, line of therapies to treat neurological conditions.