We are specialists in developing genetic techniques for neuroscience, to provide more powerful and precise ways of studying the organization of the brain, and potentially to provide clinical neurology with more effective ways of treating disorders of the brain.

Specifically, we invent techniques for targeting neurons based on their synaptic connectivity and gene expression patterns in order to cause them to express genes that allow the neurons to be studied and controlled by neuroscientists and clinicians.

Targeting neurons based on their connectivity

One focus of our work is on engineering systems for identifying and manipulating neurons that are directly synaptically connected either to a targeted single neuron or to a genetically-defined neuronal population of interest. The first system for such “monosynaptic tracing” was invented by Ian and colleagues at the Salk Institute in 2007 and has become a widely used technique in neuroscience, remaining the best (or even only) way of identifying cells directly connected to a targeted neuronal group without prior information. (more…)

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Targeting neurons based on their gene expression patterns

A second major focus is on devising ways of targeting important subtypes of neurons for expression of transgenes in the brains of animals that have not been genetically modified, with the eventual goal of allowing the use of our novel techniques in human patients. Therapies such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) can be life-changing for patients suffering from diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, but it relies on nonspecific electrical stimulation of all neurons and processes within the vicinity of the electrode, often causing severe deleterious side effects. (more…)

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