Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease

2021 Seed Grant
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D.
Rutgers University

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 the activity of downstream motor structures. In agreement, dysfunction of the striatum is a key contributor to the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of dopamine producing neurons. Astrocytes are an integral component of brain circuits that modulate neuronal processing and behavioral output via multiple mechanisms. Although deficits in striatal neurons in animal models of PD are well-characterized, how loss of dopamine affects the function of astrocytes in vivo remains unknown. As a result, striatal astrocyte signaling has been overlooked as a potential therapeutic target for the motor symptoms of PD. We have pioneered the technologies necessary to address this major knowledge gap in our biological understanding of PD. In this project, we will use cutting-edge in vivo microscopy, genetics, behavioral, and computational approaches to test the hypothesis that astrocytes orchestrate the network activity of striatal neurons to facilitate movement and that dysregulation of this process contributes to the motor symptoms of PD. Together, our work will establish novel roles for astrocytes in the neuromodulation of striatal circuits, paving the way for next-generation astrocyte-targeted therapies for PD and other striatum-dependent movement disorders.

Other Grants

Sarah C. Goetz, Ph.D., Duke University
Uncovering a Novel Role for Primary Cilia in Eph/Ephrin Signaling in Neurons
2022 Seed GrantSarah C. Goetz, Ph.D. Duke University Women’s Council Seed Grant Primary cilia are tiny projections from cells that function like an antenna- they receive and may also send…
Erin M. Gibson, Ph.D., Stanford University
Circadian Regulation of Oligodendroglial Senescence and Metabolomics in Aging
2022 Seed GrantErin M. Gibson, Ph.D.Stanford University The brain consists of two main classes of cells, neurons and glia. Glia make-up more than half of the cells in the brain…
Yvette Fisher, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Dynamic Modulation of Synaptic Plasticity During Spatial Exploration
2022 Seed GrantYvette Fisher, Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley The Virginia (Ginny) & Roger Carlson Seed Grant Cognitive flexibility is critical for appropriately adjusting thoughts and behaviors to meet changing demands…
Byoung Il Bae, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Unique Vulnerability of Developing Human Cerebral Cortex to Loss of Centrosomal Protein
2022 Seed GrantByoung Il Bae, Ph.D.University of Connecticut Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation Seed Grant The cerebral cortex is the largest and outermost part of the human brain. It is…