Proper brain function requires a balance between excitatory projection neurons and GABAergic inhibitory interneurons. Interneurons are an extremely heterogeneous cell population with distinct morphologies, connectivity, neurochemical markers and electrophysiological properties. Abnormal development and function of interneurons has been linked to the pathobiology of numerous brain diseases such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism. Many genes implicated in brain disorders are enriched in young interneurons, and thus I believe that a thorough description of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating this diverse cell population is necessary to understand both normal development and disease models.
My lab is focused on understanding the how intrinsic genetic programs and environmental signals interact to generate this incredible interneuron diversity. We take a multifaceted approach to this issue, utilizing both in vitro and in vivo approaches to identify candidate mechanisms that regulate interneuron fate decisions. We strive to develop cutting edge techniques that will overcome the many challenges with studying interneuron development. Our ultimate goal is to discover genetic cascades and signaling mechanisms that direct interneuron differentiation and maturation that will act as a springboard for future research.
Image depicts a section of an embryonic brain (left) that has been electroplated to label cells derived from the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE), merged with an section of an adult brain (right) displaying the incredible spatial and morphological diversity MGE-derived cells in the mature brain. Understanding how this heterogenous population is generated from one embryonic brain structure is the focus of my laboratory.