Research

Organisms in the Yellowstone Hot Spring must adapt to survive the extreme conditions
We can visualize dendritic spine morphology to study synaptic adaptations in response to drugs of abuse
Though we work with mouse models, the overarching goal with our research is to better understand disease so that we can help patients

How do our brains respond to various stressors?

Adapting to an environment is a fundamental goal of all biological systems, as seen in living organisms in the Yellowstone Hot Springs or in the emerging cases of COVID-19 mutants that are adapting to escape the human immune system. Our bodies, particularly our brains, have an amazing ability for adaptation to maintain homeostasis, a state of relative physiological equilibrium.

When we are exposed to challenging stressors, like brain trauma following head injuries, our bodies will work to go back toward homeostasis. Our brains in particular are masters at repair, and our long-lived neurons often ‘remodel’ their connections with neuroglia and vascular cells in the brain to adapt to stressors we experience throughout our lives.

Our lab is interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which brain cells maintain homeostasis following exposure to brain injury or risk factors related to neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.

Individual differences in molecular and cellular adaptations possibly drive susceptibility or resilience in response to risk factors and subsequent disease progression. Thus, studies of such compensatory mechanisms would provide a great opportunity for identifying disease mechanisms, new biomarkers, and therapeutic targets.

Our specific research interests are:

  • What molecular and cellular mechanisms are involved in the regulation of blood-brain barrier permeability and neural circuit activity?
  • How do actin regulators mediate homeostatic control of neuronal activity or survival?
  • What brain cell type-specific compensatory mechanisms work to respond to traumatic brain injury?
  • What molecular and cellular pathways mediate comorbidities in neurological and psychiatric disorders?

For our studies, we employ a wide array of approaches. We use biochemical techniques including translational ribosome affinity purification (TRAP)/RNAseq, proteomics, and RNAscope in order to study molecular alterations. We also use transgenic techniques including cell-type-specific molecular deletion or over-expression, as well as chemogenetic techniques in order to evaluate our working hypotheses in physiological and behavioral contexts.



Thank you to our sources of funding that allow our exciting research to continue:

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