Jonathan Lifshitz, PhD (He/Him)
Jonathan Lifshitz, PhD, has an extensive background in neuroscience, with continuous training in experimental models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their clinical application. He trained at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, University of Pennsylvania Head Injury Center and Virginia Commonwealth University Commonwealth Center on Brain Injury. He was a tenured faculty member and independent investigator at the University of Kentucky Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center. In Phoenix, he leads the Neurotrauma & Social Impact research team as a joint venture between the College of Medicine – Phoenix and the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
Dr. Lifshitz’s research has focused on cutting-edge research topics that advance the field — including mitochondria involvement in neuropathology, amygdala-dependent affective behavior, sensory sensitivity, objective signs of TBI, neuroinflammation, cognitive rehabilitation and peripheral inflammation. More than 100 peer-reviewed publications represent a body of work that includes basic mechanism, translational investigation, health care data analysis and topics of social impact related to health care disparities. [PubMed Bibliography] [Google Scholar]
Many of these projects include co-investigators and co-authors across the Phoenix Valley over the past nine years. Dr. Lifshitz has served as and continues to serve on federal grant review panels, the National Neurotrauma Society, the International Brain Injury Association planning committee, the International Neurotrauma Society scientific advisory board, the AZ Governor’s Council on Spinal and Head Injuries, the Maricopa County Collaborative on Concussions in Domestic Violence (MC3DV), the global Neurological Epidemic in Abusive Trauma (gNEAT), and as the associate editor for Neuroscience Letters.
Major contributions to science include:
- Defined the Fencing Response as a TBI indicator, which is recognized through social media as a positive sign of concussion.
- Identification of rod microglia in neurodegenerative disease, with projects to develop molecular tools to interrogate, isolate and intervene.
- Defined post-traumatic sleep as an indicator of brain injury progression.
- Leading translational and community efforts regarding TBI in domestic violence.
- Investigating the consequences of TBI during pregnancy with a focus on transgenerational effects on neurodevelopment.
- Employing miniature microscopes (miniscopes) to understand post-injury pharmacokinetics and vascular dysfunction.
- Investigating novel spatial navigation as cognitive rehabilitation for TBI in the laboratory and clinic.
Whereas the translational focus of the projects used to be on athletes, now the social impact of the work is directed toward Veterans, children, and victims of domestic violence. In these pursuits, significant effort has been dedicated to training junior investigators — with great reward personally and professionally. It is through hard work, gradualism and humility that projects evolve, earn funding, are completed, and presented.
For Dr. Lifshitz’s research team, their efforts in equity, diversity, and inclusion extend toward belonging. They take every effort to remold the group dynamic to adopt culture, style, and perspective of new members. For example, the COVID pandemic spurred multiple discussions on mental health, work-life balance, and the need for community to overcome adversity.
Many active projects keep the Neurotrauma & Social Impact research team busy. They are understanding the circuit plasticity required for cognitive rehabilitation after TBI, while translating rehabilitation strategies into virtual reality. They are developing a molecular toolbox for precise identification of brain microglia in disease. They use the fecal microbiome to track disease and therapeutic processes. One project secures miniaturized fluorescent microscopes to track drug delivery, microglia and cerebrovasculature. And, the newest project investigates the consequences of TBI during pregnancy on neurodevelopment.
The Neurotrauma & Social Impact research team embodies the intent of academic research: to empower clinical providers to make informed decisions with their patients. The research starts with clinical observation, verifies them through health care data, and then models systems in the laboratory.