Studying astrocyte-synapse communication: contribution to brain performance and the pathogenesis of brain diseases.
Two landmark observations have changed our view on what astrocytes do.
1) Astrocytes respond to signals from other cells by Ca2+ elevations
2) Ca2+ transients in astrocytes trigger the release of neuro- and vasoactive molecules
Today astrocytes are no longer seen as support cells, but rather as local communication elements, generating a variety of regulatory signals and bridging together neuronal and vascular networks that are otherwise disconnected. Our lab has provided some of the seminal evidence to support this viewpoint.
Our present focus is decoding how astrocytes communicate with neurons and other cells and ultimately to address their role in cognition.
For this we will study how astrocytes participate in learning and memory and how alterations in astrocyte function contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders.