The Vorhees/Williams Lab works under the joint direction of Charles Vorhees, PhD, and Michael Williams, PhD. The lab’s focus is on understanding how mutations in brain-specific genes/proteins, environmental agents, and proton radiation adversely affect the developing brain leading to neurological and cognitive disorders using laboratory rats. Projects range from genetic contributions to ADHD/cognitive development, to how manganese disrupts brain development, and how proton dose rate affects long-term brain function. Drs. Vorhees and Williams also co-direct the Animal Behavior Core.

We investigate:

  1. How genetic mutations predisposing to ADHD are modified by exposure to common pesticides (pyrethroids).
  2. How a key manganese transporter (SLC30A10) regulates intracellular manganese concentrations that when dysregulated causes cognitive impairments.
  3. Proton radiation is increasingly used in place of X-irradiation to treat of brain tumors and metastatic disease. Protons cause less damage to normal tissue than X-rays but whether this improves neurocognitive outcome is unknown.

Moreover, there is new evidence that high dose rate protons (FLASH) may be more effective that conventional proton treatment.  We are testing the FLASH hypothesis using different proton dose rates and analyzing both cognitive and molecular mechanisms. Future plans are to investigate FLASH at different stages of brain development to determine its potential use in children to reduce cognitive complications.