top of page
Brian P. Head


  • PhD.

  • MS

Current Position(s): 

  • Research Health Scientist, VASDHS

  • Associate Professor in Anesthesia, UCSD

Personal Statement: 

Dr. Head is a Research Health Scientist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and holds a dual appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at UCSD. The goal of his research is to use genetic interventions (via viral vector gene therapy) to evoke neuroplasticity and synaptic plasticity in the setting of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain and spinal cord injury.  Dr. Head's research involves delivery of a viral vector (AAV) that contains a neuron-targeted promoter (synapsin) to drive the expression of caveolin-1 (Cav-1) specifically in neurons after injury or during neurodegenerative conditions.  Cav-1 is a membrane protein that is essential for membrane/lipid raft (MLR) formation and localization of neurotrophin receptors to MLR in most cell membranes.  Dr. Head and his lab have previously published that neuron-targeted Cav-1 (termed SynCav1) increases MLR formation and promotes neuroplasticity in primary neurons in vitro and in hippocampal neurons in vivo, improves hippocampal-dependent learning and memory in aged mice (published in the Biological Psychiatry, refs #38 on the CV). SynCav1 also increases markers of synaptic plasticity (e.g., syntaxin, synaptobrevin, synaptophysin, neurexin) in vivo and in human neurons derived from iPSCs in vitro (published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, refs #42 on the CV).  Him and his colleagues have also demonstrated that our SynCav1 transgenic mouse (SynCav1 Tg) exhibits preserved hippocampal-dependent learning and memory and improved motor function recovery months after brain trauma (published in the FASEB J, ref #45 on the CV).  With this novel genetic intervention, their goal is to enhance pro-survival signaling that promotes dendritic growth, axonal sprouting, and re-organization of neuronal circuitry in the traumatically injured, ischemic, and neurodegenerative brain.  In addition, Dr. Head and his team are currently testing the therapeutic efficacy in rodent models Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (funded by a VA Merit award) and ALS (the latter is unfunded).  Dr. Head continues to research the underlying mechanisms of anesthetic-mediated neurotoxicity in the developing neurons.  Outside of his research commitment, he serves as a member on the VA IACUC and R & D committees. 

Dr. Head actively mentors visiting international scholars who are involved in research in the laboratory at the VA and with his affiliate university UCSD.  Because of the high productivity and novel research with major translational implications as well as his mentoring of residents, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates, Dr. Head was bestowed the prestigious PECASE honor (Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers 2012) by the Department of Veterans Affairs and President Barack H. Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C. in April 2014.  Not only is this award the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers, but Dr. Head was the sole Veterans Affairs Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development (BLR&D) researcher in the entire country to receive the award and the first from the Department of Anesthesia at the VASDHS and UCSD.


  • PhD in Molecular Pathology, UCSD, 2005

  • MS in Marine Science, USD, 2001

  • BA in American Government (minor in Theology), Georgetown University, 1994

Awards and Honors:

  • 2012 PECASE Honor (Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers)

  • American Physiological Society – Central Nervous System New Investigator Award (2011)

  • The 23rd International Symposium on Cerebral Blood Flow, Metabolism, and Function (Brain 2007, Osaka Japan) – Young Bursary Winner

Professional History:

  • Laboratory Technician, VA Medical Center, La Jolla, California, 1998-2000

  • Dissertation research, Molecular Pathology Graduate Program and Department of Pharmacology, UCSD, 2000-2005

  • Postdoctoral research, Department of Anesthesiology, UCSD, 2005-2009

  • Adjunct faculty member. Biology Department, University of San Diego, 2006

  • Assistant Research Scientist, without salary appointment, UCSD, 2009-2012

  • Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, UCSD, 2012-2015

  • Research Scientist, VMRF, 2009-Present

  • Research Health Scientist, VASDHS, 2009-Present

  • Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, UCSD, 2015-Present


National/Global Website: National Center for Biotechnology Information

bottom of page