Program in Developmental Neuroscience
Director: Chris J. McBain, PhD
The Program in Developmental Neuroscience (PDN) takes a comprehensive approach to the study of developmental neuroscience by using techniques of neurophysiology, molecular and cellular biology, crystallography, and imaging. Overall, the research focuses on the development, physiology, and pathophysiology of the mammalian central nervous system. Researchers study receptors, ion channels, and cellular and synaptic signaling mechanisms in preparations that range from isolated proteins and cells to highly ordered neural networks, in physiological and pathophysiological conditions observed in both wild-type and numerous transgenic animals.
The Section on Molecular Signal Transduction, headed by Tamás Balla, investigates the role of phosphoinositide-derived messengers in mediating the actions of hormones, growth factors, and neurotransmitters in mammalian cells.
The Section on Molecular Neurophysiology and Biophysics, headed by Dax Hoffman, continues to investigate the role of the voltage-gated potassium channel subunits in regulating dendritic excitability and synaptic integration of hippocampal neurons.
The Section on Cellular Neurobiology, headed by Y. Peng Loh, explores the mechanisms of intracellular trafficking and secretion of peptide hormones, neuropeptides, and neurotrophins in endocrine cells and neurons as well as the role of the prohormone-processing enzyme carboxypeptidase E in stress, neuroprotection, and tumorigenesis.
The Section on Cellular and Synaptic Physiology, headed by Chris McBain, investigates the development and regulation of cortical excitability, in particular glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampal formation. The Section investigates mechanisms underlying the differential regulation of transmitter release at functionally divergent presynaptic terminals along a common axon, the roles of ionotropic and metabotropic glutamatergic and cholinergic receptors in controlling cell excitability, and bi-directional synaptic plasticity at both inhibitory and excitatory axon terminals.
The Section on Cellular Signaling, headed by Stanko Stojilkovic, investigates signaling pathways in pituitary cells.
The Section on Sensory Coding and Neural Ensembles, headed by Mark Stopfer, is interested in how the brain gathers and organizes sensory information to build transient and sometimes enduring internal representations of an animal's surroundings; the animal actively collects information, which is then processed and dramatically transformed in myriad ways. The Section's goal is to understand the mechanisms by which sensory information is collected, transformed, stabilized, and compared as it makes its way through the nervous system.