Welcome to the VanHoven Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at San José State University. We study neural circuit formation, learning, memory and the role of sleep on the nervous system using the genetic model organism C. elegans. Understanding the mechanisms that regulate these critical processes may inform our understanding of devastating neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia and dementia.
We are discovering new and unexpected pathways that mediate critical neurophysiological processes using a suite of powerful tools, including fluorescent biomarkers that we developed to visualize specific neural connections called Neuroligin-1 GFP Reconstitution Across Synaptic Partners (NLG-1 GRASP) and NLG-1 Cherry Linker Across Synaptic Partners (NLG-1 CLASP). In addition, we use biomarkers to cell-specifically visualize neuronal calcium and cGMP signaling, and circuit-specific behavioral assays combined with molecular and genetic approaches to elucidate novel regulatory pathways. We focus on C. elegans, a nematode whose nervous system resembles that of humans at the molecular and cellular levels.
We are currently working on three NIH-funded major projects, two of which are collaborations with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Our research is highly collaborative, and has recently involved publications with faculty in mathematics, chemistry, computer science and physics.