Six interdisciplinary research groups that focus on neural information processing – Dorval, Rabbitt, Taha, Wachowiak, White, and Wilcox Labs – received matching funds from the U of U to purchase an integrated system for optical and electrophysiological studies in vivo. “These diverse, systems neuroscience groups will utilize the shared equipment to develop new techniques, tools, and software for intracellular recordings, optical stimulation, and intracellular recordings,” explains John White, Ph.D., Director, Neuronal Dynamics Laboratory. The state-of-the-art equipment will be used to pioneer new techniques, and to apply them towards the study of brain circuitry in awake animals.
Brain Institute Investigator John White, Ph.D., and Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology Karen Wilcox, Ph.D., were awarded $1.7 Million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and $300,000 from the Ben B. and Iris M. Margolis Foundation to study the roles of astrocytes in epilepsy.
There are over three million Americans with epilepsy, and for nearly one-third of them, current treatments are ineffective. Amongst the epilepsies that are difficult to treat are temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and viral-induced epilepsy. This is in part because the development of these types of epilepsies is not well understood.
Evidence suggests that astrocytes – long dismissed by scientists as passive support cells for neurons – undergo dramatic changes when TLE and viral-induced epilepsies are triggered in animal models. White and Wilcox will research how astrocyte dynamics influence the development of TLE and infection-induced epilepsies.
“We think that our work may identify the heretofore ignored role that astrocytes may play in the pathology of epilepsy,” said White. “Such a discovery would naturally lead to new drug targets.”