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

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