Kara Vogel, PhD
T32 Vision Research Trainee, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Neuroscience
I currently investigate the role of cytoskeletal dynamics in the process of synaptic plasticity. For example, how does the architecture along the neuron’s dendritic length and spiny protrusions develop and change dynamically after neurotransmitter stimulation? Furthermore how does this correlate to dynamic aspects of cytoskeletal function? Microtubules and actin undergo polymerization; they associate with cargo-carrying molecular motors such as dyneins, kinesins, and myosins. The motors transport cargo from neurotransmitter receptors to organelles into and out of dendritic spines. Through neurotransmitter stimulation and cellular responses, synapses are maintained or lost and integrated into complex networks. Synaptic plasticity is fundamental to higher cognitive processes such as learning and memory, and loss of integrity of this system correlates to neurodegeneration and disease. We study the dynamic interaction of microtubules, actin, associated proteins and cargos with high-resolution microscopic techniques, such as laser scanning confocal. We employ primary neuronal culture from rodents, slice culture transfection, and in vivo microinjection of developing embryos as well as human inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to investigate new links in cytoskeletal neurobiology.