Cellular / Molecular Neuroscience
Research in cellular and molecular neuroscience strives to understand the brain at its most fundamental level by studying the mechanisms that control construction and maintenance of cellular and molecular circuits.
Work in this area creates a window into how neurons are born and migrate, and how they form synaptic connections. Understanding how synapses function and undergo plasticity also allows insights into the molecular underpinnings of memory formation in the brain. Studying the ways that neurons operate will move us closer to understanding how the brain develops and responds to outside stimuli. The interplay of the complex molecular machinery of the neuronal membrane with the dynamics of electrical potentials is critical to understanding the synaptic contacts where neurons communicate with each other. This leads to important questions at the systems level. The plasticity of these contacts, expressed by neuronal axons, allows robust behavioral modification to changing environmental stimuli and internal representations.
Disruptions of the molecular machines that underlie neuronal development and function are also at the heart of most neurological and psychiatric diseases. This provides strong motivation to define how these molecular and cellular pathways allow neurons to connect and communicate, and how they go awry in brain diseases.
Cellular and molecular neuroscience is a deep mystery, but it brings exciting and critical bridges to other facets of brain and cognitive science. Researchers at BCS are using the latest tools and technologies to unlock critical applications of molecular science, including the prospects of future genetic intervention that might one day lead to cures for brain diseases.
Our focus in these important areas will help bring about new treatments for both neurodevelopment diseases like autism, as well as late-onset neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. These studies also promise new insights into how other brain-related disorders associated with aging alter the functional interplay of neuronal function and connectivity.