Faculty Spotlight: Mike Ferragamo

Posted on September 20th, 2011 by

Michael Ferragamo, professor of biology and neuroscience, returns fall semester to Gustavus after taking a sabbatical spring semester, 2011, where he concentrated on his research with Medtronic.

Medtronic is the world’s largest medical technology company, and focuses on reducing or eliminating chronic pain.  Ferragamo studies Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the brain that causes tremors and difficulty with movement and coordination.  By inducing Parkinson’s like symptoms in rats, Ferragamo is able to investigate ways in which electrical signaling may reduce the motor deficiencies experienced by Parkinson’s patients.

His work with Medtronic is not the first time Ferragamo studied animals to better understand human health. His previous research focused on bat sonar, and how auditory systems process sound. “Bats form images of their world using sound, much like we use sight to form images of our surroundings” explained Ferragamo. “It is hard to imagine using another system to perform the same function, but in order to better understand one system, you should study a high performance system.”  By studying the hearing of an animal that possesses an exceptional auditory system, Ferragamo hopes to contribute to the scientific understanding of human deafness. Although Ferragamo is not a medical doctor, both of his research projects potentially have beneficial outcomes for the medical field.

Looking forward to teaching and continuing his research fall semester at Gustavus, Ferragamo said, “I feel privileged every day to wake up to read, teach, and do what I do. It is a great time to be alive. There are such exciting scientific advances.”


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