My laboratory studies synaptic mechanisms underlying the control of movement. Our goal is to reveal how the nervous system generates movement and how disorders of movement control—such as Parkinson’s disease—corrupt this process.
I am particularly interested in understanding how a collection of brain nuclei known as the basal ganglia (BG) participates in the selection, execution, and reinforcement of voluntary movement at the level of synapses, cells, and circuits. The BG have been extensively implicated in the control of movement both clinically and experimentally, but the precise neural mechanisms by which goal-directed movement is enabled and learned remain poorly understood.
Our current studies focus on how dopamine-releasing neurons, which play a critical role in the function and plasticity of motor circuits, modulate the activity of target neurons within the BG. We have shown that synaptic transmission from dopaminergic neurons is more complex than previously thought, extending beyond the sole release of dopamine.
Specifically, we found that dopaminergic neurons silence striatal projection neurons by co-releasing the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, and that they modulate the activity of striatal cholinergic interneurons by co-releasing dopamine and another neurotransmitter.
We apply a variety of experimental approaches, including whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology in brain slices and calcium imaging in awake behaving mice. We leverage molecular, genetic, optogenetic, and pharmacogenetic tools to precisely identify neural elements and establish their functional necessity and sufficiency. Our research efforts aim to unravel the interplay among and net contribution of novel signaling pathways to BG function under physiological as well as pathological conditions.
In addition to the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone, I am affiliated with the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders.
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Physiology
PhD from Johns Hopkins University
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