Modulation of Synaptic and Extra-Synaptic Plasticity
Long term changes in rapid electrical signaling between neurons (plasticity) may be a mode of memory storage within our brains. Memory acquisition, retention and learning is influenced by various neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions. My laboratory is focused on elucidating functional changes in signaling and circuitry in different parts of the brain as a result of normal aging, or as a result of neuropsychiatric disease such as depression or neurological disease such as epilepsy. We use electrophysiological techniques combined with optogenetics and mouse models to measure changes in postsynaptic potentials as well as action potentials in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with spatial and temporal learning and memory, while the prefrontal cortex is involved in higher brain function including facets of memory and attention. Among the projects currently running in the laboratory are:
Cognitive Impairment in Epilepsy - What changes in circuitry occur in the hippocampus as a result of generation of an epileptic state? What effect does generation of the epileptic brain have on the ability to induce long-term plastic changes in communication between neurons?
Cognitive Impairment in Depression - Lack of Serotonin is associated with a clinically depressed state, as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can be used as anti-depressants. How does serotonin affect neuronal communication? Is the ability to cause long term changes in plasticity influenced by serotonin?
Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimers Disease - Amyloid Beta is a protein associated with the pathophysiology of Alzheimers Disease. Various animal models exist to mimic the human pathology. One of the hallmark features of Alzheimers Disease is the inability to acquire new memories. What causes Alzheimers Disease to express itself behaviorally later in life? We are testing one such model to determine if circuitry changes associated with memory acquisition coincide with behavioral testing of memory over the lifespan of the animal.