Photo of Vivek K. Unni, M.D., Ph.D.

Vivek K. Unni M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Unni’s research focuses on understanding the role of the protein alpha-synuclein in the mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that simply increasing levels of this protein by seemingly modest amounts can cause both genetic and idiopathic forms of PD. Dr. Unni uses transgenic models which over-express alpha-synuclein to study how abnormally high levels of this protein cause self-aggregation and neuronal dysfunction in the living brain, using advanced biochemical and in vivo multiphoton imaging techniques.


  • Ph.D., Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons 2003
  • M.D., Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons 2003
  • Residency:

    • Neurology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, 2007
  • Fellowship:

    • Movement disorders, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, 2008
  • Certifications:

    • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2008

Memberships and associations

  • American Academy of Neurology


  • "Presynaptic alpha-synuclein aggregation in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease" Journal of Neuroscience  2014
  • "Alpha-synuclein's degradation in vivo" Autophagy February 2012
  • "Studying protein degradation pathways in vivo using a cranial window-based approach" ImmunoMethods March 2011
  • "Calcium release from presynaptic ryanodine-sensitive stores is required for long-term depression at hippocampal CA3-CA3 pyramidal neuron synapses" Journal of Neuroscience October 27 2004
  • "Networks of coactive neurons in developing layer 1" Neuron March 1998
  • "Distinct roles in vivo for the Ubiquitin-Proteasome system and the Autophagy-Lysosomal Pathway in the Degradation of α-Synuclein" Journal of Neuroscience October 12 2011
  • "In vivo imaging of α-synuclein in mouse cortex demonstrates stable expression and differential subcellular compartment mobility" PLoS One  2010
  • "Essential roles in synaptic plasticity for synaptogyrin I and synaptophysin I" Neuron November 1999
  • "Association of SNCA with Parkinson" Movement Disorders October 2011
  • "Progressive Aggregation of Alpha-Synuclein and Selective Degeneration of Lewy Inclusion-Bearing Neurons in a Mouse Model of Parkinsonism" Cell Reports March 3 2015
  • "Specific splice variants are associated with Parkinson's disease" Movement Disorders October 2013
  • "Mutations in XPR1 cause primary familial brain calcification associated with altered phosphate export" Nature Genetics May 27 2015
  • "Curcumin treatment improves motor behavior in α-synuclein transgenic mice" PLoS One June 2 2015
  • "Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy" Autophagy April 2012
  • "G2019s-LRRK2 expression augments α-synuclein sequestration into inclusions in neurons" Journal of Neuroscience July 13 2016
  • "Multicolor lineage tracing using in vivo time-lapse imaging reveals coordinated death of clonally related cells in the developing vertebrate brain" Developmental Biology January 1 2019
  • "Alpha-synuclein is a DNA binding protein that modulates DNA repair with implications for Lewy body disorders" Scientific Reports December 1 2019

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