My laboratory studies synaptic modulation in the hippocampus and cortex of the mammalian brain. Our recent work has focused on the physiologic roles of endogenous cannabinoids and nerve growth factors in various forms of synaptic plasticity that are important for learning and memory. These systems are currently major targets for the development of novel therapeutics for neurologic and neurodegenerative disease.
Another area of interest focuses on the neuronal and synaptic deficits in autism, Angelman syndrome, and related neurodevelopmental disorders. This project involves patch clamp recordings, calcium imaging, and immunocytochemical analysis of human brain neurons grown in culture. In collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Stormy Chamberlain, these studies use inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) that are derived from human skin cells and then reprogrammed and differentiated into neurons. We are interested in comparing the functional and structural properties of synapses and neuronal circuits from patients with autism or Angelman syndrome vs. healthy controls.