Asst. Professor Ikuko Smith Awarded Prestigious NIH Grant To Elucidate Mechanisms Of Dendritic Integration
Psychological & Brain Sciences Asst. Prof. Ikuko Smith has just been awarded a prestigious $1.825 M grant from the National Institute of Health to understand precisely how dendrites integrate information. Her highly innovative project will examine how neuronal dendrites process information (including their role in filtering, amplifying, and integrating electrical signals) using in vivo cortical circuit activity in mice. Dendrites can fire electrical spikes much like axons, a mechanism which potentially underlies information processing at the subcellular level. With the support of this award, her team will measure and compare the level of membrane depolarizations and calcium activity within different neuronal compartments–from spines, dendrites, to soma–to quantify their amplification and strength of influence on neuronal output. To accomplish this methodological feat, Dr. Smith will use a custom two-photon microscope that was specifically designed for this research. Findings from the study will not only contribute to our basic understanding of the computational capacity of a single neuron, but will also aid in our understanding of subcellular dysfunctions in a range of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkingson's disease, which are known to exhibit dendritic pathology. Congratulations Dr. Ikuko Smith!