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

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…