Golowasch Lab Research
The goal of my research is to understand the mechanisms that allow the nervous system to be simultaneously plastic, and thus responsive to environmental and internal changes, and stable.
My work is based on the assumption that simultaneous stability and plasticity can only come about when neurons globally adjust their properties as they locally make adaptive changes to specific conditions and perturbations. What are the rules that are required for these two properties to be expressed simultaneously? What are the biological mechanisms (cellular, molecular) that make this possible? Neuronal activity itself and the neuromodulatory environment seem to be crucial factors.
In my work I apply experimental (electrophysiology, cell and molecular biology) and theoretical (analytical and computational) approaches and methods.
The main experimental animal we use is the local crab, Cancer borealis, but we also use mouse brain slices, cell lines, and acutely dissociated cells in culture.
The role of the neuromodulatory environment on the determination of the stability of rhythm-generating networks - Neuromodulatory substances appear to determine what components a neuronal network is made of. When their modulatory environment is perturbed networks can reconfigure themselves. We want to know what mechanisms control this process.
Ionic current co-regulation - Ion channels are expressed in a coordinated fashion. We don't know what all the functional implications of this are.
Neuromodulation of current co-regulation - The coordinated expression of ion channels depends on the neuron's voltage and also on their neuromodulatory environment, and we don't know virtually anything about the role of these neuromodulators in this process.
Circadian regulation of ionic currents and their co-regulation - Coordinated expression of ionic currents appears to be regulated over a 24 hr period, at least in mammalian neurons. What consequences does this have for neuronal function? What other neuronal properties are regulated in circadian time?
Neuromodulation of circadian rhythms - The circadian clock mechanism has been largely figured out. Some modulatory substances are known to regulate the phase and period of the circadian rhythm in mammals. The extent and depth of these effects given the rich neuromodulatory environment the nervous system operates in is not clear.
Glia electrophysiology - Glia are about 10 times more abundant than neurons in the nervous system, and occupy about the same volume as neurons. Yet, their role in many instances is just beginning to be grasped. In crustaceans, the role of glia is virtually unknown.