Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick G. Sullivan


The development of Parkinson's disease (PD) in humans has been linked to genetic and environmental factors for many years. However, finding common single insults which can produce pathology in humans has proved difficult. Exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been shown to be linked to PD and it has also been proposed that multiple insults may be needed for disease development.

The present studies show that exposure to TCE prior to a TBI can result in pathology similar to early PD and that the interaction of both insults is required for impairment in behavioral function, and cell loss. Following exposure to TCE for 2 weeks there is a 75% impairment in mitochondrial function but it has yet to be shown if the addition of a TBI can make this worse. If the exposure to TCE is reduced to 1 week and combined with TBI a 50% reduction in mitochondrial function is observed following the dual injury which requires both insults. These studies provide further support for the hypothesis that PD may result from a multifactorial mechanism.

It had been established that regional differences exist in mitochondrial function across brain regions. The present studies indicate that previous findings are not likely to be the result of differences in individual mitochondria isolated from the cortex, striatum, and hippocampus. Further analysis of the effect of mitochondrial inhibitors on enzyme activity and oxygen consumption reveal that the different regions of the brain are similarly affected by the inhibitors. These results suggest that findings from previous studies indicating regionally specific deficits following systemic toxin exposure, such as with TCE, are not the result of regional differences in the individual mitochondria.

Given that TBI results in significant dysfunction, finding effective therapeutics for TBI will provide substantial benefits to individuals suffering an insult. Treatment with Pioglitazone following TBI reduced mitochondrial dysfunction, cognitive impairment, cortical tissue loss, and inflammation. These findings provide initial evidence that treatment with Pioglitazone may be an effective intervention for TBI.