Matt Gaidica, PhD

Matt Gaidica, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Director of the Neurotech Hub

Neurotech Hub | Personal Website

Research summary

In 2009 Michael J. Fox hosted a documentary called Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, traveling the world in the name of research, health, and happiness. In one episode he visited Bhutan, a Buddhist nation on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, where he described a sudden alleviation of his Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

“I don’t know whether that’s from the altitude, or from the medication I’ve taken for the altitude sickness, or whether it’s just, Bhutan.”

Michael J. Fox

Fox’s anecdote was of particular interest because my graduate research was focused on the brain circuits involved in Parkinson disease, but it began me wondering. What are we doing at these extremes? Are we living or are we dying?

Throughout my research (and personal) career I have been excited by the idea that extreme environmental pressures can augment physiology for better or worse. Exploring this unique relationship is full of medical, scientific and technical challenges that not only affect high performers but translate to conditions of disease or apply to disparaged communities. Despite a rich understanding of how the body reacts to these situations, we know relatively little about the brain.

My doctoral research leveraged in-vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics to investigate how distinct neural pathways contribute to motor function. I described how neural activity coalesces to enable ballistic movements precisely in time. In following and with support from NASA and the Translation Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), my post-doctoral research focused on extending this work to understand how performance and fitness are enhanced through sleep. I did this using novel, implantable, wireless bio-loggers that record neurophysiology and behavior in free-living (or, “wild”) animals.

As an engineer-scientist, I have found the best version of myself in making tools that can answer new and exciting questions. Joining Washington University in St. Louis as Director of the Neurotech Hub was the perfect opportunity to build a resource and community around neuroscience innovation. My goal is to serve as a collaborator/investigator on new and existing projects while enabling tools that sustain and accelerate progress.


PhD, Neuroscience, University of Michigan

BS, Electrical Engineering, Kettering University

Selected publications

  • Gaidica M, Dantzer B. An implantable neurophysiology platform: Broadening research capabilities in free-living and non-traditional animals. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2022; 16: 940989.
  • Gaidica M, Dantzer B. Quantifying the autonomic response to stressors – one way to expand the definition of “stress” in animals. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 2020 Jul 1; 60(1):113-125. doi: 10.1093/icb/icaa009.
  • Bova A, Gaidica M, Hurst A, Iwai Y, Leventhal DK. (2020). Precisely-timed dopamine signals establish distinct kinematic representations of skilled movements. eLife. 2020 Nov 27; 9:e61591. doi: 10.7554/eLife.61591.
  • Gaidica M, Hurst A, Cyr C, Leventhal DK. Interactions between motor thalamic field potentials and single unit spiking predict behavior in rats. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2020 Aug 13; 14:52. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2020.00052.
  • Gaidica M, Hurst A, Cyr C, Leventhal DK. Distinct populations of motor thalamic neurons encode action initiation, action selection, and movement vigor. Journal of Neuroscience. 2018 Jul 18; 38(29):6563-6573. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0463-18.2018. Epub 2018 Jun 22.
  • Gaidica M, Clem J. Enhanced neuronal synchrony during skilled reaching at high altitude. High Altitude Medicine & Biology. 2017 Sep; 18(3):296-298. doi: 10.1089/ham.2017.0016. Epub 2017 May 4.
  • Gaidica M. (2014). Left: A History of the Hemispheres. Self-published.

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Honors & awards

2022 Commissioned Officer (2LT), U.S. Air Force

2020 NASA-TRISH Postdoctoral Fellowship/Academy of Bioastronautics

2018 Battlefield Airman Scholarship Program Recipient, U.S. Air Force

2017 Neuroscience Graduate Program Award for Innovative Research

2016 Forbes 30 Under 30, Science

2013 Kettering University Distinguished Alumni Award

2010 Undergraduate President’s Medal Recipient