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.