Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine
Synaptic Signaling in Health and Disease Our research focuses on 1) the physiology, pharmacology, and pathology of synaptic transmission in the mammalian brain, and 2) the regulation of intracellular calcium homeostasis. The two themes ultimately converge in our quest for understanding how long-term alterations in the excitability of nerve cells and circuits are responsible for offsetting the frail balance between excitation and inhibition. Tipping this balance, either acutely of chronically, results in the nervous system showing signs of abnormal activity leading to specific brain disorders. We study synaptic transmission and the activation of extrasynaptic receptors in the healthy and the diseased brain. We presently carry out research in animal models of epilepsy, Huntington's disease, stress, alcoholism, PMS/PMDD, postpartum depression, while also recording from human brain tissue surgically removed for the treatment of epilepsies. By studying the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the altered synapses and circuits our studies will lead to novel therapies for a number of devastating neurological and psychiatric disorders. The experimental approaches we use include patch-clamp recordings (whole-cell, single channel and perforated patch) in brain slices, in acutely isolated animal and human neurons, or in cultured neurons/slices; chronic recordings in vivo to monitor long-term changes in the excitability of circuits; infrared and fluorescent video microscopy and simultaneous recordings in live brain tissue; various neuroanatomical and immunohistochemical techniques; measurement of intraneuronal calcium and the binding kinetics of calcium to various calcium-binding proteins; molecular biological approaches aimed at reducing or altering specific brain proteins as in genetic knockouts/knockins and various methods aimed at altering cellular protein levels.