Neurodegenerative diseases are one of the ten most common causes of death in the developed world. In these diseases, proteins pathologically accumulate and aggregate in the brain, causing cell dysfunction, and ultimately cell death. Using models of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, in which the pathogenic proteins are expressed, we are now able measure the effects of protein accumulation on neuronal structure and function. Since the changes in neuronal activity must underlie the symptoms of the diseases, understanding the pathophysiology of the disease process is essential to therapeutic approaches to amelioration or reversal of the symptoms.
The goal of this laboratory is to understand the mechanisms of information processing in the neuronal circuits of the cortex and basal ganglia. We are specifically interested in the structural and functional bases of neuronal activity in the neocortex and neostriatum, and the mechanisms of the disruption of the activity by neurodegenerative disease processes. We use in vivo intracellular and extracellular recording techniques to measure cortical and striatal activity, and in vivo multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy to measure structural changes in neocortical neurons.