Dr. Cirstea is the course director and instructor of pathobiology of human function in the PhD in Rehabilitation Science program. Additionally, she is the course instructor of an interdepartmental graduate seminar in cognitive neuro-imaging. A co-mentor of Dr. Neena Sharma’s post-doctoral studies, Dr. Cirstea also participates as grant reviewer for the KUMC Biomedical Research Training Program.
Dr. Cirstea received her initial training in medicine in 1993 at the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania. She continued her studies at the Neurological Science Research Centre at the University of Montreal, Canada, where she received her MSc in 1999 and her PhD in 2004.
During Dr. Cirstea’s PhD studies, she was invited to present her results at multiple institutions of higher learning, such as Université de Caen, Université René Descartes Paris V and Université de Bruxelles. Her doctoral dissertation was to elucidate the role of a systematic repetitive practice in re-learning of motor skills following stroke as well as to identify which type of training approach is more beneficial for “true” motor recovery.
Dr. Cirstea joined the University of Kansas Medical Center in 2004 as a postdoctoral fellow and in 2007 was appointed Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. Her work is performed primarily at the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center at KU Medical Center.
Dr. Cirstea’s interests are to understand the mechanisms underlying brain plasticity following human brain injury and its functional relevance. This understanding should lead to the development of interventional approaches that are designed to enhance adaptive neuroplasticity mechanisms and suppress maladaptative ones.
Although neuroimaging has undergone spectacular development in recent years, no group of predictors has been found reliable enough to predict outcome that includes individual patient recovery and adaptation to the environment. Thus, another interest is to identify a relevant imaging-based biomarker that might predict outcome as well as the rate of outcome improvement in different phases of brain injury. This might help clinicians in clinical decision-making, determining the optimal treatment strategies, the optimal subpopulations for treatment, and/or application of new treatment based on evidence of a relevant biomarker demonstrating the treatment effect.
Dr. Cirstea’ studies focus on: (i) identification of neural changes at the cellular (Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) and systemic (functional MRI) level in remote cortical motor areas as well as their correlation with functional recovery following a subcortical stroke, (ii) evaluation of activity-driven cellular/systemic changes following an arm-focused intervention program, and (iii) evaluation of the predictive value of imaging-based biomarker in functional recovery following an arm-focused intervention program.
Dr. Cirstea developed external collaborations with the Medical Director of Stroke Program, St-Luke’s Hospital (Dr. M. Rymer) and the Chief of Human Cortical Physiology Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Dr. L. Cohen).
Lab Group Site
The Hoglund Brain Imaging Center (HBIC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) brings together a unique combination of neuroimaging technologies under one roof. By providing an environment where basic and clinical neuroscientists can work together to integrate structural and functional approaches to the assessment of the brain in both health and disease, HBIC functions as a regional resource engaged in activities at the forefront of neuroscientific endeavors.