Animal Models Core

Core Leadership

Heather Anne Boger, PhD
Associate Professor, Dept. of Neuroscience
Director, College of Medicine Senior Mentor Program
Interim Director, Center on Aging
Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Boger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at MUSC. She also holds several leadership roles within the College of Medicine medical curriculum, including Director of the Senior Mentor Program and Director of the pre-clinical neuroscience and neuroanatomy curriculum.  In 2016, Dr. Boger was appointed as Interim Director of the MUSC Center on Aging, in which she is devoted to improving health and wellness for seniors in the state of South Carolina through education, community outreach, and research.   

For more than 18 years, Dr. Boger’s research has focused on identifying mechanisms of action for the accelerated decline observed in patient populations as well as animal models of neurodegeneration, and determining what measures constitute the best way to correlate behavioral performance with changes in brain structure and function.  Her research has resulted in funding from both federal (NIH) and corporate (LivaNova, PLC) agencies as well as in the publication of over 38 peer-reviewed manuscripts.  During Dr. Boger’s career she has gained expertise and motivation to develop and carry out studies assessing mechanisms associated with neurodegeneration, including alterations in growth factors, inflammation, oxidative stress, and glutamate excitotoxicity.  Dr. Boger has expert knowledge in stereotaxic surgical procedures, behavioral assessment, neuroanatomy, micro-dissections, immunohistochemistry, neurochemistry, electrochemistry, molecular neuroscience, and microscopic analysis, all of which are routinely used in her laboratory.  Her research has recently been focused on exploring potential therapeutics that can be translated for the use in the clinical setting, such as the use of vagus nerve stimulation for Parkinson’s disease.   The findings from her initial studies have led to a clinical pilot study at MUSC in the Movement Disorders clinic in collaboration with Dr. Mark George of the MUSC Neuromodulation Center.  

Core Training & Consultation

Stereotaxic Surgery and Tissue Processing
Surgical-related equipment includes several rodent stereotax setups (including a mouse adaptor), Zeiss OPMI VISU surgery microscope, stereotaxic drills, ultraviolet curing light, and fiber optic illuminator. For tissue processing, there are two shared computer-interfaced stereological work-stations, which include two stereo light microscopes with high-resolution digital cameras and fluorescent capabilities, Leica VT1000S vibratome, Microm microtome, Microm cryostat, and a benchtop microscope.

Brain Stimulation
Epidural Stimulation: The cortical stimulation protocol is run off of one PC laptop with custom software that can run up to five wireless stimulator boxes, each box connecting to one implanted electrode via radio frequency. The stimulation software allows each stimulator box to be set individually for exact frequency, current level, plus width, etc.
External Stimulation:  The external stimulation protocol is conducted with the use of an A-M Systems Stimulator.  The Boger lab has two stimulators in order for multiple animals to be stimulated simultaneously.  The stimulators are able to be adjusted for exact frequency, current level, pulse width, etc.    

Behavioral Assessments
We have approximately 300 square feet of a dedicated room for behavioral assessment and training of rats. Dr. Boger has all the necessary behavioral testing equipment for this research. The behavioral equipment for testing of mice and/or rats consists of four open-field locomotion boxes with software and computer setup, reaching chambers, ladder tasks, testing cylinders, video tracking EthoVision software, and a high-speed digital video camera suitable for frame- by-frame analyses of digital videos, enriched environment equipment and cage, a high- speed digital camera, two pasta and two single-pellet reaching platforms.  Additionally, AAALAC approved animal housing rooms are available in the MUSC Childrens’ Research Institute, Basic Science Building, and Drug Discovery Building.