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Injury and Recovery Laboratory

Cole Vonder Haar, Ph.D.

Research Areas

Ozga et al., 2018. Amphetamine paradoxically reduces impulsivity in severely-injured animals.

The role of dopamine in chronic dysfunction following brain damage

Patients with brain damage are at much higher risk for the development of psychiatric disease and symptoms associated with psychiatric dysfunction. Until very recently, animal models of injury largely neglected this crucial area of study. In the IRL, we utilize robust behavioral assessments of attention, impulsivity, and decision-making to study long-term deficits. By augmenting dopamine signaling through environmental/rehabilatative, pharmacological and neuromodulatory approaches, we hope to treat these chronic psychiatric-like problems.

Yellow displaying co-localization of microglia (green) and mCherry (red) labeling of a chemogenetic receptor in the area surrounding a TBI.

Role of neuroinflammation in brain injury and psychiatric disease

A pathological feature common to both brain injuries, and many psychiatric diseases, is chronic, low-grade neuroinflammation. However, it is unclear whether this inflammation is causal to the observed symptoms, or merely a product of other pathological processes. Our lab is interested in modulating inflammation within the brain in order to determine whether neuroinflammation causes cognitive dysfunction, and how effective anti-inflammatory therapies may be for psychiatric symptoms associated with brain injury.

Unpublished data. Repeat injuries lead to a larger and larger proportion of animals displaying impairment. Impairment is defined by performance below individual baseline (1, 2, or 3 standard deviations for mild, moderate, or severe impairment, respectively).

Cumulative effects of concussion

Milder brain injuries, such as concussion, make up an overwhelmingly large portion of TBIs. With the recent increase in awareness over the plight of athletes, understanding the mechanisms and consequences of concussive TBI is crucial. Our lab is uniquely positioned to carry out sophisticated behavioral paradigms that are sensitive to the effects of concussion and enable us to test the cumulative effects of repeated mild TBIs. We are interested in both the mechanisms that cause dysfunction following a concussive injury, the factors that promote recovery, and differences that occur at the single subject level.

Techniques and Methodology

The lab uses a variety of techniques to answer our research questions. Click below to learn more.


Research in the Injury and Recovery laboratory has been supported by West Virginia University (WVU), the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS; P20-GM109098) at NIH, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS; R01-NS110905) at NIH.