Neurosurgeon and scientist Dr. Sameer Sheth has been named the newest McNair Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine. He is joining the Baylor faculty as an associate professor and vice-chair of clinical research in the Department of Neurosurgery.

The McNair Scholar program, supported by The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and managed by the McNair Medical Institute, identifies and recruits influential researchers in neuroscience, cancer and juvenile diabetes.

Sheth studies the mechanisms by which the human brain solves complex problems and makes difficult decisions. As a functional neurosurgeon, he performs surgical procedures to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and epilepsy. These procedures often involve carefully placing electrodes that can detect abnormal brain activity or can deliver electrical stimulation to restore dysfunctional brain circuits.

Sheth’s research uses these unique opportunities to learn how the brain works. Gaining this precise understanding also allows him to develop new therapies for patients with otherwise untreatable disorders.

“I am extremely grateful for the generous support from the McNair Foundation, and highly honored to be chosen as a McNair Scholar. I am excited to begin this research, which I hope will help answer some of the most challenging questions in neuroscience. Understanding how individual neurons communicate within brain circuits will open the door to treating patients with devastating neurological and psychiatric disorders,” said Sheth, who will work as a neurosurgeon at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Sheth’s recent work involves studying decision-making circuitry.

“Our brains have evolved to help us navigate through the complex world around us, constantly taking in information, evaluating it, storing it in memory, making choices, and multi-tasking,” he said. “The prefrontal cortex, the most evolutionarily advanced part of our brain, rapidly yet accurately processes information from the outside world and allows us to perform these impressive activities. When this machinery is not working properly, however, individuals develop disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, autism, and others.”

Sheth plans to translate understanding of brain circuitry into novel treatments for these illnesses.

“I hope that this research not only reveals the amazing capacity of the human brain, but also leads to treatments for the great number of patients without other options,” he said  

Sheth joins Baylor from Columbia University Medical Center where he was a neurosurgeon and researcher at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Before that he completed his residency and fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He received both his M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCLA School of Medicine, and his undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy and astrophysics was completed at Harvard University.

In addition to his patient care and research, Sheth has authored more than 80 scientific publications, including works in high-profile journals such as Nature, Journal of Neuroscience, and JAMA Psychiatry. He has been the invited guest lecturer at numerous conferences across the country and internationally.