Dr. Welsh's research focuses on the role of brain rhythms in cognitive and motor function. He and his colleagues are studying the role of high frequency thalamocortical rhythms in tests of auditory function that can be diagnostic of language insufficiency in autism. For this work, Welsh's group uses behavioral tests in normal and genetically-altered rats and combines them with multiple microelectrode neurophysiology of neocortical function to examine the circuitry mechanisms that underlie the expression of high-frequency brain rhythms. The goal of this research is to better understand the reasons why children with autism are unable to generate high-frequency brain rhythms in the cerebral cortex, leading to an inability to rapidly process sound sequences and learn language during a critical period of brain development.
Welsh's other research projects address brain activity dysfunction during recovery from ischemic stroke and in the motor disorder of dystonia. Global hypoxic-ischemic injury to the brain during birth is a significant cause of neurological disability affecting the cerebellum and hippocampus, causing long-term disability in motor and memory function. Pediatric dystonia of genetic or acquired origin causes inadvertent movements to be involuntarily expressed in the middle of otherwise normal voluntary movement. Current projects are to use animal models of hypoxic injury and dystonia in order to elucidate the circuitry mechanisms underlying pathological brain activity states in these disorders.