Hippocampal circuits

The hippocampus is a brain region that controls motivated and emotional behaviors. Schizophrenia patients show increased hippocampal activity, and we have previously used a rodent model to identify specific hippocampal cell types associated with discrete symptoms of schizophrenia. Using cutting edge techniques, including eGRASP and opto-electrophysiology, we recently characterized the anatomy and function of hippocampal circuits in healthy animals. Currently, our lab is examining the effect of risk factors, such as maternal immune activation or chronic stress, on these circuits.

Mitochondrial dysfunction

Mitochondria are intracellular organelles critically involved in cellular energy metabolism. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. In collaboration with Dr. Elena Goun at the University of Missouri, we have demonstrated that maternal immune activation (MIA), a risk factor for schizophrenia and autism, alters mitochondrial membrane potential and the expression of genes associated with mitochondrial function in offspring. Importantly, restoring mitochondrial membrane potential improves behavioral deficits caused by MIA. Currently, we are working to identify the cell types and circuits affected by mitochondrial dysfunction.

Alcohol use in schizophrenia

The prevalence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the general U.S. population is around 7%, yet nearly a quarter of people with schizophrenia develop an AUD. Hyperactivity in the hippocampus has been implicated in both the pathology of schizophrenia and in alcohol use. Therefore, we are using the maternal immune activation (MIA) model to determine whether specific cell populations in the hippocampus contribute to both abnormal drinking and schizophrenia-like behavioral deficits.