Michael Hoane Recognized as CoLA Outstanding Scholar 2014
Michael Hoane, behavioral neuroscientist in the Department of Psychology, has been named the 2014 Outstanding Scholar for the College of Liberal Arts. Professor Hoane is being recognized for the steady advancements he is making in the field of traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
Hoane heads up SIU’s Restorative Neuroscience Laboratory, whose mission is, according to the department’s website, “to use state of the art preclinical technologies to develop treatments for traumatic brain injuries.” Extremely productive and one of the most oft-cited researchers in the field today, Hoane is known for his novel and combinative therapeutic approach to treatment research. Currently nearing the end of a five-year grant cycle, Dr. Hoane has recently been testing the pre-clinical efficacy of various off-label drug cocktails and vita-nutrient therapies in reducing the consequences of the initial injury, or primary head trauma.
“Off-label” testing refers to the testing of approved drugs for uses beyond their first indications. Hoane’s lab is finding that most of these drugs will not alleviate TBI. While disappointing, the information contributes to the pursuit of finding further therapies that will aid brain injury patients. In addition to exploring pharmacological combination therapies, he is at the same time developing better preclinical models, and evaluating factors than can worsen (through stress or aging, for example) or improve (e.g., through cognitive training) quality of life post-TBI.
Presently, the only way to alleviate brain injury—and the resulting inter-cranial swelling— is by cutting into the skull to relieve the compression. What most of us don’t realize is that the primary injury is only the first problem to confront. Much damage occurs after the initial damage as the degenerative process “cascades” into secondary injuries—similar to stroke. According to Professor Hoane, the “neurochemical and biochemical cascades that are released in the brain are seemingly endless.” Arresting the cascade of further injury is where the spear of research is aimed: “It’s all about maximizing recovery.”
Another line of inquiry being pursued by the lab is nutritional prophylaxis using nutrient supplements. In other words, might it be possible to ingest a brain-protective substance prior to facing the potential of concussion, much as we don safety helmets? If so, the applications for military and sports environments are clear.
Hoane’s research was the basis for a clinical trial being conducted by Virginia Commonwealth Universities’ sports medicine program and is poised to treat concussions sustained on the field with riboflavin. This is an important opportunity because the successes achieved with rats are very difficult to duplicate in humans.
According to Department Chair Meera Komarraju, Michael Hoane is not just an outstanding scholar and dedicated scientist, either. He is also “a highly sought after mentor and research advisor by both graduate and undergraduate students.” She continues, “What is most noteworthy is that his advisees are pursuing successful career tracks through prestigious post-doctoral research positions at Stanford University, University of Texas–Austin, University of British Columbia, and University of Lethbridge.”
Despite normal risks, Professor Hoane does not let his research preoccupation get in the way of living a full life. He coaches youth football, basketball, and baseball—though he is definitely a proponent of resting a concussion. “The education has been great,” on this issue, he says, largely as a result of injured pro players telling their personal stories of the outcome of repetitive brain injury. Michael Hoane’s research is making it more likely that these kind of stories will have better endings in the future.