Levi Sowers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Research Health Science Specialist (VA Center for the Treatment & Prevention of Visual Loss)

Summary of Research
Veterans who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffer from an increased prevalence of persistent migraine-like post-traumatic headaches for which treatments remain inadequate. These headaches are a major problem for Veterans and can negatively affect their quality of life. Our proposal aims to identify brain regions that are important in the development of post-traumatic headache and photophobia (light sensitivity) in Veterans.

What impacts has your research had on veterans?
So far, our work suggests that a neuropeptide called CGRP may contribute to post-traumatic headache. If so, then a new class of CGRP-blocking drugs just approved by the FDA for migraine may also be very helpful for Veterans with post-traumatic headache. When our study is completed, we will also have identified anatomical targets for the development of new treatments and therapeutics in post-traumatic headache. Overall, it is our goal to help rehabilitate Veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic headache.

Why did you initially become involved in Research?
When I was an undergraduate at the University I joined the laboratory of Dr. Johannes Hell. As I spent more time in his lab, I became fascinated with how the brain communicates and how neurons work. It was not my plan at the time to do research but he encouraged me over the last two years of college to apply for graduate school and enter a PhD program. To this day, it was one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given me.

What motivates you?
I particularly love doing research that one day will help Veterans. I have many family members past and present that have served in the military. It is the least I can do to give back to those that protect our great nation. In addition, I really enjoy learning every day. That is the beauty of research. Nothing is the same from day to day.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job/research?
Some of the work I have been associated with here in the lab is already being used in the clinic as a treatment for migraine. The translational aspect of my work is what I find really rewarding. I love to discover basic science findings in my work, but the most rewarding aspect is if it gets translated to the clinic in some way. That is the ultimate reward.