The human brain consists of more than 100 billion neurons, which process and transmits information at specialized junctions called synapses. How are properties of synapses formed, stabilized, maintained and modulated is critical for maintaining accurate neuronal network activity and normal brain function?
Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular basis of the formation and function of synapses and exploring the mechanisms underlying the impairments in synaptic function that are observed in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. We are particularly interested in molecular mechanisms of building and maintaining tripartite synapses (synapses made by neuron-neuron and neuron-glia interactions), with the notion that both neuron and glia encode the cellular logic of neural circuits.
In pursuing those questions, our laboratory will utilize an interdisciplinary approach that spans from in vitro studies to animal behavior assessments and includes dual-patch recording in the acute slice, animal behavior, stereotaxic injection of virus for gene manipulation and for functional circuit tracing, optogenetics, molecules biology, mouse genetics.
Our studies will identify molecules that are required for the formation/function of tripartite synapse and determine how mutations in their genes give rise to neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disorders. Our findings will thereby provide insights into basic molecular mechanisms that mediate synaptic function and contribute to understanding the role of malfunction of synapse in neurologic disorders.