The Team

The Team

Principal Investigator


Nader Pouratian, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, UCLA Neurosurgery
Dr. Pouratian's primary neurosurgical interest is in surgeries that preserve and restore function to patients, including movement disorder surgeries, surgeries for psychiatric conditions, and surgeries for peripheral nerve injuries and tumors. In order to do these surgeries, Dr. Pouratian uses advanced neuroimaging and brain and nerve mapping techniques, including functional MRI, cortical stimulation mapping, electrocorticographic (ECoG) mapping, optical imaging of intrinsic signals, and intraoperative EMG and nerve conduction studies.
His research focuses on further developing these mapping tools in order to expand the surgical indications and to develop new therapies for functional preservation and restoration. He is particularly interested in studying brain mapping signals to develop brain-computer interfaces to help patients with severe motor and language disabilities. 

Postdoctoral Scholars


Mahsa Malekmohammadi, Ph.D.

Mahsa Malekmohammadi, PhD. received her BS in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and her MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from University of California, Los Angeles. She joined NBMRL as a graduate student studying patterns of structural and functional connectivity between subcortical and cortical brain regions and after that she was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford for one year. Now she is focused on conducting invasive neurophysiology research using advanced signal analysis techniques to understand the pathophysiology of movement disorders and consciousness.


Evangelia Tsolaki, Ph.D. 

Evangelia joined Dr Pouratian's lab as a postdoctoral scholar in 2014. Her research is focused on investigating alterations in brain networks, via the study of functional and structural connectivity, neural activity and structural abnormalities in patients with chronic pain and depression. She is currently working on a new method of connectivity-guided targeting of the subcallosal cingulate region that could be used for direct targeting in DBS for patients with treatment-resistant depression.

  • Ph.D. Dept. of Medical School, University of Thessaly, Greece, 2013
  • M.Sc. Biomedical Engineering, European Postgraduate Programme, Dept. of Medical School, University of Patras, Greece, 2008
  • B.Sc. Dept. of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Greece, 2006


William Speier, Ph.D.

William received a B.S. in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics and an M.S. in computer science from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from UCLA. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the neurosurgery department at UCLA and is involved in several areas of research, including medical informatics, neural signal analysis, and brain–computer interfaces.

Woo Choi

Jeong Woo Choi, Ph.D.

Jeong Woo Choi, PhD received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Yonsei University, Korea, and joined NBMRL as a postdoctoral scholar in 2017. His research focusses on movement-related neural dynamics within and between subcortical and cortical regions in movement disorders, from invasive neurophysiological recordings with advanced signal analysis techniques.

Graduate Students


Andrew O’Keeffe, M.D., Ph.D. Candidate

I studied at the University of Oxford for my undergraduate degree in neuroscience and then for my medical degree. After obtaining membership of the Royal College of Surgeons and starting my neurosurgery residency, I embarked on a PhD in Dr Pouratian’s lab. Research to improve patient care has always been my main motivation for working in medicine. Neurosurgery offers a very direct way to get involved with some of the most interesting and challenging research questions facing modern science. My main interests lie in using the electrophysiological activity of the brain to understand how we function as thinking, behaving animals. Outside the lab and the operating room I enjoy reading literature, surfing, skiing, tennis and chess. I’m a fanatical cook and lover of all things food related.


Soroush Niketeghad, Ph.D. Candidate

Soroush Niketeghad received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, Iran and his M.S. degree in computer engineering from University of Denver, CO. He did his master’s thesis on designing a closed loop deep brain stimulation (DBS) system and he also worked on computational modeling of the circuit of Papez at Medtronic Inc. Soroush started his PhD in bioengineering at UCLA and joined the Neurosurgical brain mapping and restoration lab on September 2015 and he is currently studying the recordings and stimulation of the visual cortex of the blind patients. His main interests are biomedical signal processing and computational modeling of the brain.

Medical Students


Collin Price, M.D. Candidate

Collin Price is a first year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He received a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. After graduating, Collin spent two years researching resting-state fMRI in neurodegenerative diseases with the Functional Imaging in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (FIND) lab at Stanford University. Currently, Collin is investigating the effects of anesthesia administration on thalamo-cortical communication using intraoperative electrical recordings.


Dustin Roberts, M.D. Candidate

Dustin Roberts, B.S. graduated from UCLA in 2014 with a degree in Biochemistry. He started at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2015 with an interest in pursuing neurosurgery. Prior to joining the Pouratian lab in 2015, Dustin worked as a Staff Research Associate in the UCLA Neurology Department under Dr. Allan Mackenzie-Graham, where he studied mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neuroprotection in Multiple Sclerosis with the use of ‘CLARITY,’ a novel technique for large-scale optical tissue clearing and 3D fluorescent imaging.

Current Projects:

  1. Clinical comparison study of a newly developed P300 BCI speller system that utilizes a particle filtering algorithm for probabilistic language modeling and a ‘familiar face’ stimulus modality.
  2. Retrospective study investigating the effects of stereotactic radiosurgery for neuropathic pain.


Hiro Sparks, M.D. Candidate

Hiro Sparks, B.S. graduated with highest honors from UCSB in 2015 with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is now a second year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Currently, Hiro is involved in studying the effects of anesthesia on the nuclei of the basal ganglia. He is also working on a retrospective study investigating the effects of stereotactic radiosurgery for arteriovenous malformations.


Alon Kashanian, M.D. Candidate

Alon Kashanian received his B.S. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2014 and is currently a medical student at the Sackler School of Medicine (Tel Aviv University). Following his 3rd year of medical school, Alon decided to dedicate an additional 2 years to working as a research assistant in our lab. His research focuses on the use of neuroimaging techniques, such as DTI, for the identification of optimal targets for deep brain stimulation surgery and other neurosurgical therapies.


Hannah Honey Riskin-Jones, M.D. Candidate

Hannah Riskin-Jones is a 2nd year medical student at UCLA. She received her BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and MSc from Cardiff University in Neuroimaging Methods and Applications. Hannah is broadly interested in clinical applications of multi-modal imaging and, at NBMRL, she is working on using diffusion imaging to refine targeting methods for deep brain stimulation.


Brandon McMahan, M.D. Candidate

Brandon McMahan is currently a first-year medical student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at UCLA-Caltech. He is working on delineating the subthalamic nucleaus into anatomical subregions based on connectivity with other brain regions. Brandon is also currently starting to work on improving a phenome prediction algorithm for an intracranial EEG based brain-computer interface.


Lauren Uhr, M.D. Candidate

Lauren Uhr is a second year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She received her B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Currently she is involved in a project using diffusion imaging to examine the structural connectivity of motor and depression networks in Parkinson’s disease.


Ali Tafreshi, M.D. Candidate

Ali Tafreshi graduated from Williams College in 2015, where he was a double major in biology and psychology and a double minor in neuroscience and biochemistry & molecular biology. He is now a medical student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, conducting a year of dedicated neurosurgery research between his 3rd and 4th years. His research experience includes optogenetics, epigenetics of brain tumors, and epidemiology of deep brain stimulation surgery. He is currently studying gait abnormality in patients with Parkinson’s disease.


Shaghauyegh Azar, M.D. Candidate

Shaghauyegh Azar is a second year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She received her B.S. in Psychobiology from UCLA in 2016. Prior to starting medical school, she was involved in research at UCLA focusing on the neurobiological changes that result due to blindness. She is currently researching the visual and neurological implications of electrical stimulation of V1 in blind patients.

Undergraduate Students/Volunteers


Sara Rashidi

Sara Rashidi is a recent UCLA graduate. She studied Psychobiology and Iranian Studies. She joined the NBMRL due to her vast interest in neurological disorders and brain functioning. Prior to joining the Pouratian lab, Sara worked as a staff research associate in Neuroplasticity and Repair Laboratory in the UCLA Neurosurgery Department, where she was involved in several studies that test motor and respiratory functioning of patients with spinal cord injury and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Currently, Sara is investigating neural signatures of freezing of gait in Parkinson's disease patients to characterize the neural activity associated with episodes of freezing that occur in everyday walking.

AV Tavakoli

Amir Vala Tavakoli completed his undergraduate studies at UCLA. He has since performed research in electrophysiology, neuroimaging, neuromodulation, and psychophysics at UCLA, Caltech, and in private industry. His current research regards the structural and functional connectivity underlying emergent sensory-motor function and dysfunction. He is particularly interested in developing clinical innovations that integrate multiple domains of research in neurophysiology.

Active Collaborators  

Richard Andersen, Ph.D., Professor, Caltech
Adam Aron, Ph.D., Professor, UCSD
Xiao Hu, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UCSF
Ueli Rutishauser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Ausaf Bari, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, UCLA Neurosurgery

Lab Coordinators


Nadia Hashoush

Nadia Hashoush is a lab coordinator for the NBMR Lab. She graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Davis. Before joining the lab, she worked as a practice coordinator at UC San Francisco. She is excited to be a part of the lab and investigating the relationship between brain networks and pathophysiologic processes of movement disorders. Her responsibilities include management of day-to-day laboratory operations and efficiency, as well as participant recruitment.


Emily Koenig

Emily Koenig is a lab coordinator for the NMBR Lab. She graduated from Scripps College with a B.A. in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. For her senior thesis, Emily analyzed MRI scans to investigate neural correlates specific to spelling ability in school aged children. Emily is excited to be a part of a lab that is using innovate techniques to explore neural activity of movement disorder patients. Her primary responsibilities include management of day-to-day laboratory operations and patient recruitment.