Autism, epilepsy & schizophrenia

Non-Invasive Optogenetic Engineering of Cortical Dynamics
2013 Seed Grant

Brian Chow, Ph.D.
Department of Bioengineering
University of Pennsylvania

The goal of Dr. Chow’s project is to create the tools and methodology for disrupting cortical excitatory/inhibitory balance via non-invasive optogenetic perturbation. Disrupted E/I balance is thought to play a pathophysiological role in nervous system disorders of high unmet clinical need such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, among others (Eichler et al, Front. Mol. Neuro. 2008 and references within).  Recent optogenetic studies confirmed that E/I imbalance can lead to social deficit phenotypes in rodents, a phenotype of observed in patients with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders (Yizhar et al. Nature, 2011).  Thus, understanding this balance is both critical to treating CNS disorder and tractable for via optogenetic manipulation. By combining the 2-dimensional control of light delivery, with in utero electroporation for layer-specific transgene expression, if successful, Dr. Chow will create the ability to selectively manipulate neurons with 3-dimensional complexity non-invasively in freely behaving animals.

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…