Controlling synaptic function with light

2015 Seed Grant
Matthew Kennedy, Ph.D.
University of Colorado

Synaptic plasticity is thought to be essential for normal cognition and is impaired in numerous neuropsychiatric disorders and diseases, including schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s. While plasticity defects likely underlie many symptoms of these disorders, little is known about why plasticity is impaired. On a molecular level, plasticity dependent synaptic changes are governed by molecular signaling and trafficking events that occur at synapses. A major difficulty in studying these molecular events is the lack of suitable tools to study processes on fast time scales in localized regions of neurons. Furthermore, there remains an unmet need for tools to acutely, reversibly and locally control these events in vivo. Such tools would help resolve longstanding questions concerning where, when and whether intensely investigated forms of synaptic plasticity, mostly studied in brain slices or dissociated neurons, are relevant for behavior in normal and disease models.

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…
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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…