August 05, 2011

Mef2a and muscle regeneration: Christine Snyder

Christine Snyder
Even exercise can damage your muscles. Muscle cells then need to regenerate to keep you healthy. This month, we talk with Christine Snyder, a graduate student in the lab of Frank Naya at Boston University who studies how muscle regrowth is regulated.

Her work in the Naya lab focuses on a transcription factor (a protein that interacts with the DNA to affect gene transcription) known as Mef2A. Her lab studies mice that lack this transcription factor and show specific deficits in muscle development. She also explains how a technique called RNA interference can be used to silence certain genes to determine their function in cell cultures or animal models. Christine’s work has important implications for manipulating muscle regeneration after disease or injury.

More on the Naya Lab's research

June 30, 2011

Chronic pain is a disease: Allan Basbaum

Pain helps us avoid potentially harmful situations and is necessary for survival. While most of us only experience acute pain while the painful stimulus is present, some people unfortunately suffer from constant pain that persists long after the stimulus is removed. Our guest this week, Allan Basbaum, a professor and chair of the Department of Anatomy at UCSF, is interested in chronic pain and its cause.

During our interview, Dr. Basbaum explains how pain is in the brain; the pain that one person feels can be more (or less) intense than another person’s perception even if the stimulus is identical. His lab investigates how chronic pain can occur by changes in the nervous system and the role of epigenetics (the interactions between your DNA and all other non-DNA elements). They are also interested in transplanting inhibitory precursor cells (cells that develop and eventually inhibit the activity of surrounding neurons) to help the spinal cord suppress pain signals. His findings could eventually lead to effective therapies to treat this debilitating disease.

More on the Basbaum Lab's research

Hosted by Osama Ahmed

June 01, 2011

Makings of a memory: Loren Frank

Loren Frank
The brain’s capacity to remember experiences to guide future decisions is an essential and fascinating ability. Our guest this month Loren Frank, an associate professor in the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF, is working to understand this process.

Dr. Frank studies how the hippocampus, a brain structure required for the formation of memories, mediates spatial learning in rats. Within the hippocampus exist place cells: neurons that are activated whenever an animal is in a specific location in its environment. His lab records the neuronal activity of place cells during formation and “replay” of memories while rats explore their environment. Disrupting the “replay” prevents the long term formation of memory. Later in our interview, Dr. Frank discusses his initial interest in astrophysics and how he became interested in a career in neuroscience.

More on the Frank Lab's research

May 02, 2011

Mapping the brain's blood vessels: David Kleinfeld

David Kleinfeld

David Kleinfeld is a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. In this month’s episode, Dr. Kleinfeld talks about the different, important questions his lab is addressing.

One part of his lab is trying to understand how the brain uses sensory input to process information about the environment. The lab uses the vibrissa (whisker) system in rats and mice to understand how they sense and navigate the world. Next, Dr. Kleinfeld discusses how changes in blood flow in the brain can be used to visualize electrical activity evoked by different stimuli. The tools his lab let them see blood flow at the level of a single blood vessel. Using these optical techniques, they can map every blood vessel and brain cell within sensory cortex. Creating a complicated “road map” of the brain can eventually be used to help interpret results from imaging techniques such as fMRI used in humans.

More on the Kleinfeld Lab's research

Hosted by Osama Ahmed

March 31, 2011

How the Brain Maps What it Sees and Hears: Jason Triplett

Auditory and visual cues are crucial for perceiving the environment. Within the brain, both auditory stimuli and visual stimuli are organized topographically. In the visual system this means that neighboring spots on the retina project to neighboring spots in the brain. Likewise, areas along the basilar membrane in the cochlea which are sensitive to increasing frequencies of sound maintain this arrangement in the areas of the brain to which they project.

Our guest this week is Jason Triplett, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is interested in understanding the molecular and genetic mechanisms that guide the formation of these spatial maps. Jason will discuss how waves of neuronal activity that take place during development (before the eyes are even opened) are used by the brain to establish these complicated maps. Finally, we will hear briefly about the experiences that led him toward a career in science.

More on the Triplett Lab's research.

Hosted by Sama Ahmed.