Alzheimer’s disease, autism, schizophrenia

Controlling synaptic function with light
2013 Seed Grant

Matthew Kennedy, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology
University of Colorado

Establishment of synaptic plasticity is essential for normal learning and memory and is impaired in numerous neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, autism, addiction and Alzheimer’s. While plasticity defects likely underlie many symptoms of these disorders, little is known about why plasticity is impaired, or the effects of plasticity in various brain regions on behavior. Dr. Kennedy and his lab propose to use a technology we have recently developed to control cellular protein interactions with light. They will implement this technology in neurons to prevent, induce or erase various forms of synaptic plasticity in genetically defined circuits. Fast, spatial control of cellular functions underlying plasticity will allow researchers to address difficult and previously intractable problems regarding how experience-dependent changes at the neural circuit level manifest in behavioral changes in the normal and diseased brain.

Other Grants

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a…