Overview: We investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie synaptic connectivity in the CNS. Distinct from many other laboratories, we view astrocytes as an integral part of the synapse with roles in synapse development, function, and plasticity. Our approach involves anatomical and imaging-based assays in pure primary neuron-astrocyte cultures or genetically-modified mice.
Role of Astrocytes in Synaptic Connectivity
Our brains host billions of neurons that establish trillions of synaptic connections with each other. This complex synaptic web is organized into the neural circuits that direct our motor, sensory and cognitive functions. What are the cellular and molecular interactions that control how this complex synaptic network is weaved during development and remodeled during learning and disease? This is the main question that drives our research. Our perspective includes glial cells, particularly astrocytes, as active participants in the development, remodeling and function of synaptic circuits.
Studies in the last fifteen years have uncovered that astrocytes are powerful controllers of synapse formation, function, plasticity and elimination, both in health and disease. Research from our laboratory revealed a number of important molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate astrocyte-neuron signaling, which control synapse formation and maturation. Currently, we are continuing to understand the function of astrocyte-neuron communication in the normal mammalian brain. Moreover, we are investigating how problems in astrocyte-neuron communication significantly contribute to the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration.
You can read our studies through the Publications link.
You can also learn about some of our studies through these videos:
Neuropilicity (Kucukdereli 2011)
Science Hangout (Singh, Stogsdill et al., 2016)