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Department of Neurology

Department of Neurology

Faculty | Professors




Elizabeth A. Disbrow M.A, Ph.D.

Associate Adjunct Professor
University of California, San Francisco
Specialty: Neuroscience

Center for Neuroscience
1544 Newton Court
Davis, CA 95618

Clinical & Research Interests

While Parkinson’s disease (PD) has traditionally been considered a motor disorder, it has become clear that PD can also cause significant cognitive impairments.  Approximately 60% of non-demented patients are impaired in at least one cognitive domain, and these progressive cognitive deficits affect motor performance and quality of life. Producing a movement is a complex interplay between many cognitive factors including intention, sensory input selection, stimulus recognition and memory, postural control, response selection and motor planning.  Dr. Disbrow’s work addresses a simple, yet critical question: do the cognitive impairments of PD have unique functional correlates separate from motor impairments?  This question is vital for the effective treatment of PD because cognitive factors such as motor planning are a fundamental part of normal motor behavior.   Yet, despite the clear contribution of cognitive dysfunction to motor impairment in PD, current approaches to therapy do not include the evaluation or treatment of cognitive deficits.  Dr. Disbrow’s research using fMRI and MEG to measure cortical and subcortical response abnormalities in PD focuses on several aspects of motor planning. An important aspect of motor planning is the ability to make a change in the plan, switching between response options (e.g. pressing one button vs. another). The focus of this work is to determine the underlying neural substrates of task switching deficits in PD and to link these dysfunctions with behavioral impairments in everyday life.  A related project is the rehabilitation of cognitive deficits in PD patients. Dr. Disbrow and her colleagues have developed an in-home computer based adaptive training paradigm to improve movement initiation in patients with PD.  A clearer delineation of cognitive and motor aspects of movement dysfunction in PD and the underlying pathophysiology will provide insights that inform target-specific drug development, lead to better assessment of the effectiveness of emerging treatment options, and better inform the physician as to the appropriate course of treatment of the constellation of both cognitive and motor symptoms of the disease in the individual patient.


UC Davis
Davis, California
Ph.D. 1996

California State
Sacramento, CA
M.A. 1990

UC Davis
Davis, California
B.S. 1988

Professional Memberships

Society for Neuroscience

Select Recent Publications

E. A. Disbrow, Hinkley, L. B. N., Roberts, T. P. L. Ipsilateral representation of oral structures in human anterior parietal somatosensory cortex and integration of inputs across the midline. Journal of Comparative Neurology 467(4): 487-495, 2003.

E. Disbrow, Litinas, E., Recanzone, G.H., Padberg, J., Krubitzer, L. Cortical connections of the second somatosensory area and the parietal ventral area in macaque monkeys. Journal of Comparative Neurology 462:382-399, 2003.

L. Krubitzer, Huffman, K. J., Disbrow, E., Recanzone, G. The organization of area 3a in macaque monkeys: Contributions to the cortical phenotype. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 471(1): 97-111, 2003.

E.A. Disbrow, Litinas, E., Recanzone, G.H., Slutsky, E., Krubitzed, L. Thalamocortical connections of the parietal ventral area (PV) and the second somatosensory area (S2) in macaque monkeys. Thalamus and Related Systems, 1(4):289-302, 2002.

E.A. Disbrow, Roberts, T.P.L., Poeppel, D. and Krubitzer, L. Evidence for interhemispheric processing of inputs from the hands in human S2 and PV. Journal of Neurophysiology, 85(5):2236-2244, 2001.

E.A Disbrow, Slutsky, D, Roberts, TPL, Krubitzer, L. Functional MRI at 1.5 tesla: A comparison of the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal and electrophysiology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 97(17):9718-9723, 2000.

E.A Disbrow, Roberts, T.P.L., and Krubitzer, L. The somatotopic organization of the lateral sulcus areas in Homo Sapiens: Evidence for SII and PV. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 418(N1):1-21, 2000.

Roberts, T.P.L., E.A. Disbrow, Roberts, H.C., Rowley, H.A. Quantification and reproducibility of tracking cortical extent of activation by use of functional MR imaging and magnetoencephalography. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 21(8):1377-1387, 2000.

Baron, R, Baron, Y, E.A. Disbrow, Roberts, TPL. Activation of the somatosensory cortex during A beta-fiber mediated hyperalgesia - a MSI study. Brain Research, 871(1):75-82, 2000.

E.A. Disbrow, T.P.L. Roberts, D. Slutsky and L. Krubitzer. The use of fMRI for determining the topographic organization of cortical fields in human and nonhuman primates. Brain Research 829:167-173, 1999.