Excitatory and inhibitory synapse communication in synaptic plasticity

2019 Seed Grant
Kathleen Smith, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Denver

During many neurological diseases, brain regions that are essential for learning and memory become over-excitable, due to excessive nerve impulses between nerve cells. This causes nerve cells in these regions to behave abnormally or die, leading to brain damage. Our research aims to understand the processes and factors within nerve cells that cause this over-excitability and their altered function or death. Specifically, we want to know how the connections between nerve cells change during processes that underlie learning and memory (plasticity) in healthy brains, so we can then determine how this goes wrong in disease. We will study nerve cell connections using powerful microscopes to visualize the nerve cells. We can make nerve cells glow green, red and blue so we can observe the changes in the connections between nerves during experiments mimicking plasticity. We will also use a special microscope that allows us to see even the tiniest details of the nerve connections, providing even more information about the processes that are occurring in the nerve cells during plasticity. Lastly, we will determine what factors in the neuron are causing the changes in nerve connections during plasticity. Knowing more about this process will help us understand how to make drugs to treat diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy and stroke.

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…