Research in Cellular & Systems Neuroscience:
Neurobiology of Olfactory and Limbic Systems
Research in my lab is aimed at elucidating organizational principles of neural systems in the brain using electrophysiological, pharmacological and anatomical methods. In particular, I am interested in the functional organization of the olfactory and limbic system. How do intrinsic and synaptic neuronal properties relate to information coding and neural network function of these systems? My research on both systems has been directed at understanding mechanisms of information processing that form the basis of persistent functional changes in these systems and their relation to neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders including epilepsy. To that end, I have started to work on translational projects, specifically, the development of novel anti-epileptic drugs and new pharmacological approaches for drug abuse treatment.
Synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation
In the limbic system, my research activities have been centered on a subcortical structure of the vertebrate brain, the amygdala. This structure is a component of the limbic system and a key brain site for emotion, fear, learning and memory. The amygdala is essential for developing an inner view of the outside sensory world and is thought to be one of the key structures for the interpretation of sensory information associated with motivation and emotion. Functional impairment of amygdaloid structures and related brain areas forms the pathophysiological basis of some common neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders including forms of epilepsy. The main goal of this line of work is to reveal functions of the amygdala at the cellular and network level and to integrate this knowledge into the functioning of higher order brain systems. I have studied properties of identified neuronal cell types at the level of local neuronal networks using acutely isolated slice preparations. This allows me to focus on intra-amygdaloidal synaptic networks that form the basis of the integrative functions of the amygdala. This helps us to better understand the cellular mechanisms that may underlie enduring changes in amygdala function associated with amygdala-dependent neuropsychiatric disorders. My research on the amygdala includes topics such synaptic transmission, neuromodulation, synaptic plasticity as well as mechanisms for generating rhythmic and epileptiform activity.
Intrinsic and synaptic properties of olfactory bulb neurons
In an olfactory bulb slice preparation I am using patch clamp and imaging techniques to characterize biophysical, cellular and synaptic properties of mitral and granule cells to gain insights into neuronal processing and odor coding in the vertebrate brain. Mitral and granule cells are two key cell types in the olfactory bulb. Mitral cells receive afferent input from olfactory receptor neurons and communicate with regions of the cerebral cortex. Granule cells provide inhibitory input to mitral cell dendrites in local neuronal circuits within the olfactory bulb. In particular, I am pursuing projects related to the presence and functional role of ionotropic and metabotropic receptors and associated neurotransmitter systems in shaping responses to olfactory nerve input and synaptic output to higher brain centers.
• recording neural activity:
- patch clamp technique, current clamp and voltage clamp
- intracellular (sharp microelectrode) and extracellular electrophysiology
- intracellular calcium measurements
- voltage-sensitive dye imaging
• photolysis of caged compounds
• microstimulation, microinjection
• intracellular staining
• neuronal tracing & neuroanatomical techniques (histochemistry, immunocytochemistry)
• light and laser scanning confocal microscopy
• differential interference contrast visualization of cells in living slices
• acute tissue slices and organotypic slice cultures from wild-type and gene-targeted mice