The brain is composed of two types of cells termed neurons and glia. Most of what we know about the processing of information in the brain involves the generation, propagation and transfer of electrical signals between neurons within the brain. Although it is clear that neurons play a pivotal role in all brain-related activities such as learning and memory, recent research suggests that glial cells may play a crucial role in normal neuronal function. The importance of glia in normal brain function may be related to their ability to regulate a variety of chemicals accessible to the neurons. The regulation of these chemicals is important to study because these substances that can have profound effects on the production of electrical signals in neurons and thus the manner in which information is processed by the brain.
My National Science Foundation grant is focused on examining the role of glia in a region of the brain involved in the regulation of breathing. Using live brain tissue and fluorescence microscopy, I am investigating how glia regulate the level of acidity in a region of the brain known as the medulla. Controlling the level of acidity in the body is one of the most tightly regulated systems known. This tight regulation is thought to occur because slight variations in acidity (either too much or too little) can greatly disrupt cell function throughout the body. The medulla is a particularly important region of the brain since neurons at these sites 'sense' changes in acidity by altering their production of electrical signals. These changes in electrical signals ultimately result in a change in breathing, which is one method the body uses to regulate acidity. Investigating the role of glia in this response is exciting because it will provide important new information on the intimate coupling of glial and neuronal function and how the interaction of these cell types help shape information processing in the brain.
Research Associate - Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH - 1996-1997
Research Associate - Wright State School of Medicine, Dayton, OH - 1994-1996
Postdoctoral Fellow - Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH - 1993-1994
Ph. D - Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH - 1988-1993
M.S - University of Colorado, Boulder, CO - 1986-1988
B.S. - University of Colorado, Boulder, CO - 1980-1984
Introduction to Neuroscience
Mechanisms of Human Disease