My laboratory studies neural function and plasticity using in vivo experimental approaches in mouse models. Our systems neuroscience approach allows us to investigate how the brain integrates sensory and motor information, and how sensorimotor circuits undergo functional changes during behavioral learning, injury, and disease. Current projects investigate the roles of genetically distinct neuronal types in the cerebral cortex and striatum in movement initiation and suppression. We use optogenetic, electrophysiological, imaging and behavioral techniques in transgenic mice to label, record, and manipulate these cell types. As we uncover the neural circuitry that mediates cortically driven behaviors, it will be important to define changes in the transcriptomes of identified neurons as a step toward understanding the genetic basis of neural plasticity in corticostriatal signaling, and how these mechanisms go awry in disorders of the nervous system. We are currently preparing samples for RNA-seq analysis of denervated muscle tissue as part of a different ongoing study that uses optogenetic stimulation to restore movement to paralyzed facial muscles in mice. In another study, we are imaging the brain’s immediate and long-term physiological response to focal traumatic brain injury using a novel experimental system where we can visualize neural changes in real time. Understanding which brain regions are more susceptible to injury-induced aberrant activity will also benefit from genetic analysis. Overall, our research has great potential for synergistic interactions with HGINJ.
Clinical or Educational Responsibilities
I am engaged in teaching responsibilities as a Cell Biology and Neuroscience faculty member. I teach parts of Advanced Neurobiology I in the Fall semester, and Topics in Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the Spring semester. I have taught part of Advanced Studies, a RWJMS Neuroscience graduate course in 2 of 3 previous years. I supervise two postdoctoral researchers, one PhD student, and share supervision of one additional PhD student, as well as 8 undergraduate researchers. I am a a graduate faculty member of the Molecular Biosciences and Biomedical Engineering PhD programs, and serve on PhD committees of two current graduate students. I serve as Associate Editor for the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits, and as an Editorial Board member of ScienceMatters and Scientific Reports.