Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery and Regional Epilepsy Center; Adjunct, Department of Neurology
Our laboratory's research focuses on the physiology and electrophysiology of glial cells and their role in CNS function and disease, in particular in epilepsy. Several different factors can affect neuronal excitability and function. One critical factor is the proper maintenance of the neuronal environment. Since neuronal activity causes the release of neuroactive substances, and promotes the gradual dissipation of ionic gradients, on which neuronal activity crucially depends, the brain has implemented effective homeostatic mechanisms. Glial cells play a key role in the maintenance of the brain extracellular microenvironment. However, following CNS injury, glial cells change their cellular properties to promote tissue repair and enter an activated state that is termed "reactive". Since reactive glia have different cellular properties, it has been hypothesized that they may have improper homeostasis of the extracellular space. Our work focuses on how reactive glia affect neuronal excitability and function. Reactive glia is a feature common to several pathologies of the CNS including, but not limited to, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke. We believe that a better understanding of how glia perform the homeostasis of the brain extracellular space, and how this is affected when glia become reactive, will allow one to design drugs to improve the brain function of patients suffering from these diseases. Our current work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Epilepsy Project and CURE Epilepsy foundations. Specific current interests include: glial extracellular ion homeostasis in traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic epilepsy; membrane potassium channels; edema; basic mechanisms of posttraumatic epilepsy.