Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology/Biophysics
I am interested in understanding how small groups of neurons in the central nervous system function together. At the cellular level, we study the ionic currents that influence a neuron's intrinsic properties. These currents determine the physiology of different classes of neurons such as bursting pyramidal cells and fast-spiking interneurons. We also study the function and plasticity of synaptic connections made between different neurons. My laboratory approaches these issues using both electrophysiology, primarily whole cell patch clamp recordings, and optical imaging techniques in acute brain slices. At the systems level, we work to integrate our knowledge about the cellular properties of different types of neurons and their synaptic interconnections to produce models of activity in local microcircuits. These models are explored by activating synaptic inputs that drive local circuits and by looking for collective behaviors generated by cell assemblies. The latter approach has been especially useful in understanding the local circuit connections that mediate synchronized discharges and network oscillations.
I received my undergraduate degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984. My interest in neuroscience also began at MIT, inspired in part by the exciting faculty there at the time including Jerry Lettvin, Alan North, and Richard Wurtman. After college, I spent a year at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center learning about electrophysiology and the hippocampus with Doug Knowles and Roger Traub. I then went to Yale University for a Ph.D. in neuroscience, which I received in 1991. My thesis project in Gordon Shepherd's laboratory focused on the local circuits that mediate feedforward and feedback inhibition in neocortex.
After too many years on the east coast, I moved west for a postdoctoral fellowship with Phil Schwarzkroin at the University of Washington. My work in Seattle focused on mossy cells, the principal cell type in the dentate hilus and a critical player in some types of temporal lobe epilepsies. I then spent a year learning optical recording techniques with David Tank at AT&T Bell Labs (now part of Lucent Technologies) before returning to Seattle as a Research Assistant Professor in the Departments of Neurological Surgery and Physiology/Biophysics in 1995. I moved to the Neurosciences Department at Case Western in the beginning of 1998.