Program for the Study of Neuronal Synaptic Plasticity

Establishing a collaborative and innovative program to advance knowledge around neuronal synaptic plasticity within the Medical College of Wisconsin

Full Project Name:Program for the Study of Neuronal Synaptic Plasticity in Health and IllnessPrincipal Investigator:Cecilia Hillard, PhD, Pharmacology and ToxicologyCo-Investigator:Nashaat Gerges, PhD, Cell Biology; Cheryl Stucky, PhD, Cell Biology; Sang Lee, PhD, Pharmacology; Qing-song Liu, PhD, PharmacologyAward Amount:$3,042,309
Award Date
January2012
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:


Healthy function of the central and peripheral nervous systems allow humans to move, feel, hear, see, digest food, regulate heart rate and blood pressure, make decisions and think. Neurons, the fundamental units of the nervous system, communicate with each other through special areas of connection called "synapses." Humans are able to adapt, learn, compute, make decisions, and remember because this synaptic communication is not fixed, but is plastic. This synaptic plasticity is essential to human function, but can also contribute to disorders that directly and indirectly impact populations statewide.

While the molecular events that underlie synaptic plasticity are becoming more well understood, challenges remain in understand how the molecular events of synaptic plasticity lead to behavioral adaptation, learning, computation, decision making and memory. Establishing a vigorous, multifaceted research program in the area of synaptic plasticity within the Neuroscience Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin can contribute to solutions to complex disorders of the nervous system.

Through this award, investigators aim to advance understanding of nervous system function in health and illness by creating a collaborative and translational research program focused on the mechanisms, triggers, and consequences of changes in synaptic plasticity.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Established program for the study of neuronal synaptic plasticity within the Neuroscience Research Center of the Medical College of Wisconsin

• Successfully recruited faculty members who advanced collaborative projects and initiated new projects. During initial project period, investigators within the program sucessfully made research discoveries and advanced new knowledge that included identification of a new target protein for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, understanding of how prior brain injury and stress could make a person more vulnerable to become addicted to drugs of abuse, identification of a new target for the treatment of refractory seizures, identification of a new target for the treatment of gastrointestinal pain, identification of a new way to screen for drugs and procedures to alleviate the pain of chronic muscle contractions, and the identification of molecular mechanisms that contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder

• Established pilot award process to support investigator work, leveraging pilot awards for applications for extramural funding, bringing new resources and opportunities to advance the health of Wisconsin residents to the state

• Documented new discoveries and knowledge in numerous publications, disseminating results of innovative research nationally and internationally

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