Carlos A. Paladini, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Neuroscience; Rutgers University
B.A. in Zoology/Physiology; Rutgers University
Activity patterns in the brain establish the manner by which sensory information is perceived, salience is assigned, and motor output is performed. Transient, activity-dependent release of dopamine is critical for natural processing in the brain. Disruptions of dopamine activity result in many of the symptoms of a wide range of psychiatric diseases, drug addiction, and in the extreme case of the degeneration of these cells, to Parkinson’s Disease. In vitro studies have determined that ion channel proteins drive the activity patterns of dopamine neurons. The multitude of physiological consequences of their opening and closing makes ion channels and their associated receptors highly compelling as important therapeutic targets for treating many of the symptoms of mental illnesses and neurological disorders.
Dr. Paladini's lab investigates the cellular, synaptic, and circuit mechanisms by which inputs to dopamine neurons influence their activity, and how they are changed in various disease states. These inputs include not only other neurons in the brain, but also a type of glia cells called astrocytes. To achieve the lab uses selective in vitro and in vivo manipulation of identified inputs following prior viral infection with light-sensitive opsins. This strategy provides a unique opportunity to dissect and individually examine all the components necessary for dopamine cell activity.
The lab has developed methods to individually manipulate identified neuronal inputs and astrocytes. It also has developed methods to record the electrical activity of dopamine neurons in vivo. Training is provided not only in these technical advances but also in experimental design, publication and funding strategies, and scientific advancement.
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