Neurophysiology & Neuropharmacology Research


Armen Akopian, Ph.D.  (Endodontics) – The main focus of our laboratory is to understand the nature and regulation of pain pathways at peripheral sites – mainly sensory neurons activated by harmful/noxious stimuli. These types of sensory neurons are referred to as nociceptors. We work almost exclusively with channels located at peripheral sites and activated by harmful/noxious stimuli, and have several research projects that involve transient receptor potential (TRP) and some voltage-gated channels.

Michael Beckstead, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – Dopamine neurons of the ventral midbrain contribute to voluntary movement, the processing of natural rewards, and the etiology of several neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and drug addiction. We use a combination of patch clamp electrophysiology and behavioral techniques to investigate hypotheses concerning the role of dopamine neuron excitability in behavior.

Kelly Berg, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – Our work centers on questions concerning the molecular nature of drug efficacy and the mechanisms by which the efficacy of drugs can be regulated. Our current projects include studies on the regulation of opioid receptor agonist efficacy in primary sensory neurons, determination of the role of opioid receptor heteromers in peripheral mechanisms of analgesia and measurement of functional selectivity profiles of kappa opioid receptor ligands.

Manzoor Bhat, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – We are investigating the genetic and molecular basis of complex and reciprocal interactions between various types of glial cells, which play a key role in axonal insulation, blood-brain barrier formation and axon guidance during Drosophila development. Our lab identified Neurexin IV, Contactin and Neuroglian as key molecular components of the glial- and axo-glial septate junctions and showed that these proteins are crucial for the organization and function of the septate junctions.

Robert Brenner, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – The focus of our studies has been the large conductance (BK-type) calcium-activated potassium channels. Our work has focused on a family of tissue-specific accessory β subunits that interact with the pore-forming α subunit and dramatically alter BK channel biophysical properties in a manner apparently reminiscent of BK channels in native tissues.

José Cavazos, M.D., Ph.D.  () – My laboratory studies activity-dependent plasticity in the hippocampal formation in the developing, adult, and aged brain using a variety of experimental models of epilepsy, seizures, and epileptogenesis. We currently are investigating the molecular mechanisms that link the synchronous neuronal hyperexcitability with these morphological events including the role of caspases using in-vivo models and in-vitro organotypic hippocampal slice cultures.

William Clarke, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – The main focus of our laboratory is to understand the nature, and the regulation of, drug-receptor interactions that are responsible for production of a response (efficacy). We are especially interested in studying constitutive receptor activity and functional selectivity of drugs; two relatively new concepts in receptor theory.

Lyn Daws, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – The broad area of my research is studying the function and regulation of biogenic amine transporters, including the classical serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine transporters, as well as more recently identified transporters in brain, such as the organic cation transporters and plasma membrane monoamine transporter.

Timothy Duong, Ph.D.  (Research Imaging Institute) – Our lab’s research focuses on the development and application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), spectroscopy (MRS), and speckle and optical imaging, to the study of brain and retinal anatomy, physiology and function in animal models and humans.

Ben Eaton, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – Our lab is interested in defining the molecular mechanisms that stabilize and maintain synapse function throughout the lifespan of an organism. These mechanisms include stabilization of both synaptic innervations and synaptic transmission. Furthermore, we predict that these mechanisms contribute to age-dependent declines in nervous system function that are observed normally and during disease.

Charles France, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – Research in the France laboratory focuses on interactions between behavior and pharmacology and how those interactions impact the abuse liability of drugs. A unifying theme of research in the France laboratory is the application of receptor theory to the planning, execution, and interpretation of behavioral pharmacological studies.

Alan Frazer, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – My primary research interest is the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs. The focus of my lab has been to study how chronic treatment of rats with antidepressants affects the functioning of two monoamine systems, noradrenergic and serotonergic, that are important targets for their clinical effects.

Lisa Gerak, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – Studies conducted in this laboratory examine the acute and chronic behavioral effects of benzodiazepines and other positive GABAA modulators, particularly neuroactive steroids. Our primary research goal is to investigate changes in GABAA receptor function with benzodiazepine tolerance and dependence, discover the nature of differences between the effects of neuroactive steroids and those of benzodiazepines, and determine whether these differences can be exploited for clinical benefit.

Andrea Giuffrida, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – My laboratory is interested in the role played by the endocannabinoid system in regulating psychomotor functions. We integrate neurochemistry and behavioral pharmacology to study endocannabinoid transmission in animal models of neurological and psychiatric disorders including Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and schizophrenia.

Ken Hargreaves, D.D.S., Ph.D.  (Endodontics) – My primary research interests are in the pharmacology of pain and inflammation. A major focus is on pharmacological regulation of unmyelinated "C" fiber nociceptors, as well as their plasticity in response to inflammation or nerve injury. Investigations are in progress evaluating the effects of cannabinoids, opioids, adrenergics, NPY, sex steroids and other drugs on regulating the activity of these fibers.

Nathan Jeske, Ph.D.  (Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery) – In the Jeske lab, we are working to characterize specific signaling events that are critical to the phosphorylation of TRPV1. Several of our studies are focused on the biochemical, molecular, and pharmacological dissection of the AKAP scaffolding protein, and its role in targeting kinases to TRPV1.

Jun Hee Kim, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – Our research interest is to understand regulatory mechanisms of presynaptic excitability and synaptic transmission in the central nervous system (CNS) during physiological or pathological conditions, using electrophysiology and imaging techniques.

Wouter Koek, Ph.D.  (Psychiatry) – We conduct preclinical research using animal models relevant to alcohol and drug abuse. These studies examine how genetic factors, developmental factors, and their interaction influence vulnerability to drug abuse and other psychiatric disorders. This research is aimed at contributing to the development of effective, scientifically based approaches to the prevention and treatment of these disorders.

Hye Young Lee, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – The research goal of the Lee lab is: 1) to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for the pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and to use these mechanisms to rescue ASD symptoms in mouse models, which will help us understand/improve mental function and behavioral deficits and 2) to elucidate the social communication deficits and repetitive behaviors in autism mouse models and to identify the brain region and neurons underlying these behavioral deficits, which will help us understand how this circuitry might contribute to compromised behavioral phenotypes in ASD.

Daniel Lodge, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – Our research centers around how the mesolimbic dopamine system is regulated by afferent structures, such as the ventral hippocampus. We combine in vivo electrophysiology with activation and/or inactivation of afferent structures to examine how these pathways interact to control dopamine neuron output. To complement this systems-oriented approach, behavioral and neurochemical methods are employed to provide an important correlate for changes observed at the cellular level.

Xin-Yun Lu, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – My laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms and neural circuits underlying obesity, eating disorders, and depression. Current research focuses on the role of the melanocortin system and adiposity hormone leptin in the control of appetite, mood, and emotion.

Lance McMahon, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – Research in my laboratory integrates principles of behavior and receptor theory to identify mechanisms in the nervous system responsible for the abuse liability of sedative-hypnotics, opioids, and cannabinoids.

David Morilak, Ph.D.  (Pharmacology) – We study the negative impact of stress, and mechanisms for better treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders. Our focus is on the brain neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) and its role in a) acute behavioral, cognitive and endocrine responses to stress; b) adaptive and maladaptive responses to chronic stress; and c) regulatory mechanisms of action of psychotherapeutic drugs.

Martin Paukert, M.D.  (Physiology) – Astroglia are recognized for their homeostatic support functions during neuronal activity. Much less is known about how astroglia modulate neuronal activity in a behavioral state-dependent manner. A particular focus of our work lies on understanding molecular events and behavioral context leading to astroglia Ca2+ dynamics in awake mice, consequences for neuronal signaling and alterations of these signals in transgenic mouse models of neurodegenerative and neurobehavioral disease. We are pursuing these goals combining behavioral manipulations with two-photon microscopy and electrophysiology to observe activity in ensembles of neurons and astrocytes with cellular resolution.

Jason Pugh, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – We currently study the axons of cerebellar granule cells which form the parallel fibers. These axons are particularly amenable to these experiments because they are unmyelinated, express a wide range of receptors, form small en passant synapses typical of the central nervous system, and have a simple and regular morphology. However, in the future these approaches can easily be applied to a wide range of presynaptic receptors and channels expressed in other axons throughout the CNS.

Mark Shapiro, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – With the combined use of biophysics, molecular biology, biochemistry and single-cell imaging, this lab works toward the identification of the relevant signaling molecules in modulation of ion channels and the understanding of the precise mechanisms they use.

Jim Stockand, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – My laboratory uses a number of contemporary methodologies, including electrophysiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, genomics and proteomics, and fluorescence microscopy to investigate regulation of ENaC and aldosterone signaling. We routinely use yeast, bacteria, immortalized cell lines and animals in this regard.

Glenn Toney, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – Major goals for my lab are to provide new knowledge regarding the basic function of specific groups of autonomic neurons and to determine how these groups of neurons are involved in cardiovascular disease. We are currently interested in determining how the PVN contributes to autonomic disturbances that accompany angiotensin II- and sodium-sensitive models of hypertension as well as congestive heart failure.

David Weiss, Ph.D.  (Physiology) – We address a variety of questions directed at understanding how GABA receptors work and to help answer these questions we use a variety of molecular biological, biochemical, pharmacological, electrophysiological, and biophysical techniques to gain insight into the structure and function of GABA receptor activation, permeation, modulation, and regulation.