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Devin Binder

Research Assistant Professor
Assistant Clinical Professor
Devin Binder
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries contribute to a third of all injury-related U.S. deaths. Understanding the devastating secondary effects of such injuries is critical for saving lives. Dr. Binder’s lab has discovered brain swelling can be detected much earlier than currently possible, which is groundbreaking for emergency medicine.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Mechanisms of brain swelling
  • Devices for early detection of brain swelling and seizures
Division: Affiliations:

Press Release/ Article:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Excellence in Teaching Award, UCI School of Medicine (2009)
  • Gold Star Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society (2009)
  • Vesalius Award, American Association of Neurological Surgeons (2007)
  • American Epilepsy Society, Milken Family Foundation Early Career Physician Scientist Award (2006)
  • Van Wagenen Fellowship from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (2005)
  • Hoopes Prize, Harvard University

Research Summary

Exploring the control of water in brain cells and how it goes awry in seizures, trauma, stroke, infections, tumors; developing optical detectors for early diagnosis of brain swelling.


Q: Why is your work important? How does it benefit society?
Our work on the basic mechanisms of brain cells and water channels involved in water balance helps us understand their importance in both healthy and diseased brains. Our development of new optical probes for the minimally invasive detection of seizures and brain edema would be groundbreaking for the clinical management of epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke and brain tumors.

Q: What is the biggest myth about your research on traumatic brain injury? What doesn’t the public know or understand about this kind of research?
Research on traumatic brain injury has received more public attention as a result of our military involvement, as well as Congresswoman Giffords’ battle to recover from a gunshot wound to the head. Primary brain injury is the damage that occurs at the time of trauma. Secondary injury refers to all of the other disease processes that begin immediately thereafter (such as loss of blood flow and oxygen and tissue swelling). If we really understand secondary injury then we can intervene right after a trauma to prevent the secondary effects. These interventions combined with early detection and treatment will be critical to moving the field of trauma forward. All of the above also applies to traumatic spinal cord injury. In a recently published a paper, we demonstrated that swelling in glial cells (brain cells that support neurons) likely plays an important role in secondary injury.

Q: What does “interdisciplinary research” mean to you? How has your research path exemplified the good things that come from such research?
As a dually-trained clinical neurosurgeon (M.D.) and neuroscientist (Ph.D.), I have sought to identify the right research environment to pursue clinically important questions from a basic neuroscience perspective. For example, treating epilepsy patients as a neurosurgeon, I have first-hand experience in how devastating it is to these patients to have recurrent unpredictable seizures. Based on our lab discovery that brain cell swelling probably starts before seizures, we focused on developing optical seizure detection devices. This becomes "interdisciplinary" research as we benefit from the collaboration and expertise of our optical engineering colleagues. The "holy grail" would be to come full circle and take the device prototypes to clinical testing for patient care and the benefit of society.

Q: What does “Living the Promise” mean to you?
As a newcomer to UCR, I am impressed with the warmth and collegiality of the interaction among faculty, students and staff. I see "Living the Promise" as a vertical integration of a total immersion learning experience at every level, and in which everyone is collectively participating for the greater good. For example, I like to learn from as well as (occasionally) educate my colleagues and students in an environment relatively unfettered by traditional divisions and hierarchies. Thus a university that fosters such a supportive learning, doing and researching environment — and celebrates itself for doing so — clearly adheres to the useful maxim "a rising tide floats all boats."

Q: If you had unlimited resources and no constraints, what would you do to further your research?
This is a fantasy of just about every researcher! I would immediately establish a "Center for Applied Neurotechnology" (CAN for short, as in "YES WE CAN"!) at UCR as part of the new UCR School of Medicine. Its mission would be to unify efforts to diagnose and treat brain diseases in a multidisciplinary manner using the unique resources at UCR and in the surrounding area. We could also facilitate early clinical trials of medical devices, a process that now requires a significant financial investment and is not easy to fund by NIH or even private industry.

Q: What is it about UCR that makes this a great place to do your research?
UCR is unique in having a broad variety of expertise in areas directly related to our research. The Center for Glial-Neuronal Interactions is a consortium of fantastic researchers based at UCR all studying aspects of the interaction of various glial cell types (such as astrocytes and microglia) with neurons in controlling brain function in health and disease. Also, the engineering and optics expertise at UCR is a great resource for developing devices for detecting and treating brain diseases. In general, the welcoming and collaborative posture of all of the research community on this campus is special and is to be celebrated! These unique collaborations make it possible to really make progress in a way unique to UCR.
Devin Binder “As a neurosurgeon (M.D.) and neuroscientist (Ph.D.), I have looked for the right research environment to explore clinically important questions from a basic neuroscience perspective. The ‘holy grail' is to come full circle and take our device prototypes to clinical testing, using them in patients for the benefit of society.”

—Devin Binder
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