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• James Ackman (MCD) Mapping Brain Circuit Structure and Function
• Bin Chen (MCD) Mammalian Brain Development
• Dave Feldheim (MCD) The Generation of Neural Connections
• David Haussler (BME) Using Stem Cells and Genomics to Study the Evolution and Function of Human Genes
• Joel Kubby (EE) Applications of Adaptive Optics for Biological Microscopy
• Alan Litke (SCIPP) High Energy Physicist Turns His Attention to Neurobiology
• Glenn Millhauser (Chem) Remarkable Protein Structures ..... and Where They Go Wrong
• Jevgenij Raskatov (Chem) Disease-Oriented Chemical Biology
• Bill Saxton (MCD) Organelle Transport and Neurodegeneration
• Alexander "Sasha" Sher (SCIPP) Neural Circuits: Function, Development, and Treatment
• Don Smith (METX) Molecular and Functional impacts of Neurotoxic Agents
• Yi Zuo (MCD) Synapse Plasticity and Learning/Memory

Prof James AckmanMapping Brain Circuit Structure and Function

James Ackman, Dept. of MCD Biology

Circuit assembly in the developing brain is dependent on a series of innate and experienced cues which act in concert to wire up the nervous system. James Ackman investigates the fundamental principles governing how the nervous system is wired together and how neural circuit structure and function is established. A central focus of the Ackman lab is exploring the sources and the flow of brain activity in the cerebral cortex that's involved in the development of synaptic connections between brain regions. Another major effort is concerned with investigating how patterns of activity across brain circuits shape the planning nd execution of behavior. The Ackman lab utilizes optical imaging of cerebral activity in vivo—allowing direct observation and recording of the brain at work—together with electrophysiology, histology, and genetic manipulations of synaptic connectivity that help us visualize how the brain wires itself together. Understanding the mechanisms that underly how neural circuits are established will not only be key to preventing neurodevelopmental disorders, but will be crucial for engineering the brain repair strategies and brain–machine interfaces of the future. [More]
Ackman Publications James Ackman's Email

Bin ChenMammalian Brain Development

Bin Chen , Dept. MCD Biology

Proper generation of different neuronal subtypes in the cerebral cortex and their precise wiring into functional neural circuits underlie our most sophisticated cognitive and perceptual abilities. When this process goes awry, neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and obsessive compulsive behavior, can arise. Research in the Chen laboratory is focused on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the neural stem cells to generate different types of neurons and determining how they are wired into functional neural circuits. Neurons in the cerebral cortex are organized into 6 layers. Within each layer, neurons ..... [More]

Bin Chen's Publications
Bin Chen's Email

The Generation of Neural ConnectionsProf. David Feldheim

David Feldheim, Dept. of MCD Biology

The mammalian brain contains billions of neurons that make even more billions of synaptic connections. These connections allow us to perceive the outside world, and are the framework for higher cognitive functions, such as learning, memory, thought and emotion. In addition, perturbations in patterns of synaptic connections underlie psychiatric, neurological and developmental disorders in humans. The Feldheim lab is interested in understanding how neural connections are generated during development. They find that both genes (nature) and neural activity (nurture) are used to form these connections during development. [More]

Feldheim Publications
Dave Feldheim's E-mail

Prof David HausslerUsing Stem Cells and Genomics to Study the Evolution and Function of Human Genes

David Haussler, Dept. of Biomolecular Engineering

Dr. Haussler's investigative team brings together skills of a computational group and "wet lab" researchers to understand the evolution and function of non-protein coding regions of the human genome. A major focus is on identifying DNA elements and non-coding RNAs that play a role in specifying cortical neuron development. They use embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cell neural differentiation assays with human and primate stem cells followed by genomic characterization of this process using RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, etc. This approach allows us to identify both primate- and human-specific features of this important developmental pathway. [More]

Haussler's Publications Haussler's E-Mail

Prof Joel KubbyApplications of Adaptive Optics for Biological Microscopy

Joel Kubby, Dept. of Electrical Engineering

Professor Joel Kubby is collaborating with engineers, physicists and biologists to utilize Adaptive Optics for the improvement of deep tissue imaging of living cells. Current biological microscopy is incapable of obtaining high quality live imaging in samples greater than 30 microns beneath the plasma membrane, where many critical cellular processes occur. Much of the degradation in image quality is the result of local differences in the refractive index, both within the sample and between the sample and the immersion lens. Adaptive optics was first used to correct for image aberrations in astronomical imaging. Kubby and his collaborators have shown that the same principles that improved resolution in telescopes can be adapted to improve wide-field, confocal, two-photon, super-resolution and spinning disk microscopy systems that are crucial for biological research. [More]
Kubby Publications Joel Kubby's Email

Prof Alan LitkeHigh Energy Physics Comes to the Aid of Neurobiology

Alan Litke, Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics

Alan Litke is physicist who is also interested in neurobiology. Several years ago, Litke began to utilize principles from his research on detection of particles in high-energy-physics collisions in order to develop electrode arrays that can be used to detect signals from the individual output neurons of live retinal tissue. Litke and neurobiologist E. J. Chichilnisky from the Salk Institute used this technology to discover a type of retinal cell that may help monkeys, apes, and humans see motion. [More]

Litke Publications Alan Litke Email

xxxRemarkable Protein Structures... and Where They Go Wrong in Disease

Glenn Millhauser, Department of Chemistry

In modern biochemistry, structural determination is essential for understanding the function of biomolecules. Scientists in Glenn Millhauser's laboratory use peptide synthesis, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), and electron paramagnetic spin resonance spectroscopy (EPR) to examine the structure and analyze the function of proteins that have been implicated in several debilitating diseases. This includes the prion protein, which is responsible for mad cow disease and the related human affliction, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. They have also examined a novel signaling molecule, called AGRP, which is involved in energy balance and metabolic pathologies, such as diabetes and obesity. [More]
Millhauser Publications Glenn Millhauser's E-Mail

Prof. Jevgenij A. RaskatovDisease-Oriented Chemical Biology

Jevgenij A. Raskatov, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Raskatov draws inspiration from aging-related medicinally challenging questions, which are becoming increasingly pressing as life expectancy continues to rise (the cancer/inflammation interface is of specific interest). Raskatov's lab identifies biomolecular signaling nodes that are sufficiently well-understood at the molecular level, so that a biology problem can be translated into a chemistry problem. As chemists, their goal is to synthesize molecules and study their properties by means of NMR spectroscopy (1), crystallography (2) and DFT computation (3). Molecular scaffolds that show initial promise are tested in relevant biological systems both in cell culture (4) and in vivo (5). [More]

Raskatov Publications Jevgenij Raskatov's Email

Prof Bill SaxtonOrganelle Transport and Neurodegeneration

Bill Saxton, Dept. MCD Biology

The Saxton lab studies mechanisms that drive intracellular transport and cytoplasmic organization, using Drosophila as a model organism. To generate and maintain proper cytoplasmic order and thus their complex functions, cells use microtubules and force-generating motor proteins to transport RNAs, proteins, mitochondria and other organelles to appropriate locations. Neurons are especially dependent on such microtubule-based cytoplasmic transport, because their signaling functions rely on extraordinarily long cytoplasmic extensions (axons and dendrites) that require import of many components from their cell bodies ... [More]

Saxton Publications Bill Saxton's Email

Prof Sasha SherNeural Circuits: Function, Development, and Treatment

Alexander "Sasha" Sher, Santa Cruz Institut for Particle Physics

Our brain is a highly sophisticated system that receives information about the outside world, processes it, and determines our reaction to it. These functions are realized through billions of individual neurons that are connected in vast and complicated circuits and use electrical signals to communicate with each other. The Sher lab is using unique large scale multielectrode recording systems developed by a collaboration of physicists, biologists, and engineers to study function, development and treatment of neural circuits. Sher's research is focused particularly on the retina and visual system. In addition, in collaboration with prof. Alan Litke, Sher lab participates in the development of new techniques for recording and stimulation of neural activity. [More]

Sher Publications Sasha Sher's Email

Prof Don Smith Molecular and Functional impacts of Neurotoxic Agents

Don Smith, Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology

It is becoming clear that exposures to environmental toxins, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic can cause or contribute to the development of diseases in humans. For example, some neurobehavioral and neurodegenerative disorders, such as learning deficits and Parkinsonism have been linked to elevated lead and manganese exposures in children and manganese exposures in adults, respectively. The Smith lab explores basic mechanisms underlying how toxic metal exposures contributes to cellular effects and disease. [More]

Smith Publications Don Smith's Email

Prof Yi ZuoSynapse Plasticity and Learning/Memory

Yi Zuo, Dept. of MCD Biology

The human brain is an extremely complicated organ, in which billions of neurons make trillions of connections. Synapses are the principal sites at which neurons communicate with one another. Experience-dependent modification of synaptic structure and function provides a cellular mechanism for learning and memory, while abnormal synaptic connections are hallmarks of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. My laboratory studies how the neuronal circuitry is rewired during learning and memory formation, and investigates the cellular mechanisms underlying structural changes of synapses under both physiological and pathological conditions. ( [More]
Zuo Publications Yi Zuo's E-Mail

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