For the past 25 years my research lab at UCI has studied the activity of living neurons from the brains of both flies and mice. Using molecular genetic manipulations and whole cell electrophysiology we are exploring the role of specific genes in regulating functional plasticity of developing and mature neural circuits. We are also examining how environmental factors such as exposure to specific drugs, including nicotine, can influence information transfer between neurons. A basic understanding of the genes and environmental factors that influence information processing between small groups of neurons is key to development of drugs and gene therapies aimed at restoring normal activity in the human brain that has been damaged by injury, disease, or exposure to drugs of abuse. These studies will also provide important clues as to the factors that might enhance normal cognitive function both during development and in the mature human brain. We are currently exploring the role of human sodium channel mutations that cause epilepsy on channel function and neuronal activity using knock-in transgenic flies along with parallel studies in neurons derived from induced human pluripotent stem cells generated from fibroblasts obtained from individuals with these mutations.
Key Research Areas:
Molecular genetics, drugs, induced pluripotent stem cells, flies, functional plasticity, neuronal maturation