Fellows have worked in these and other areas of research:
- Molecular Biology of Circadian Rhythms
- Visual Processing in Primates
- Development of Olfactory Systems in Mammals
- Gene Expression and Memory
2012 – 2013 Mahoney Fellows
Gabriella Boulting, PhD
Harvard Medical School, Michael E. Greenberg PhD Laboratory
Enhancer sequences are essential regulatory elements that control proper gene expression. Sequence variation within enhancers may contribute significantly to differences in clinical presentation and therapeutic outcomes within patient populations. However, enhancers are poorly understood and are difficult to study. To overcome the technical barriers to studying enhancer function, and to better understand the crucial roles of enhancers in proper brain development, Boulting will adapt new technologies of tailored DNA binding proteins to target and repress enhancer function. The new DNA binding proteins she develops for this purpose could be applied to interrogate enhancer function in any gene or cell type. By focusing on well-characterized genes that are known to be critical for regulating neuronal synapse formation, Boulting will examine the regulatory role of enhancer sequences in the basic neuron functions that underlie memory and learning.
Noah Druckenbrod, PhD
Harvard Medical School, Lisa Goodrich, PhD Laboratory
The ability to detect, interpret and respond to complex sounds in the environment depends on the precisely ordered circuits of the inner ear. The primary neurons for hearing are the spiral ganglion neurons, which receive input from sensory hair cells and transmit this information rapidly and accurately to the central nervous system. The cochlea is also innervated by a small population of motor neurons, which project in the opposite direction, providing efferent feedback from the brain to the ear. Druckenbroad’s work is aimed at understanding how these two populations of neurons interact with each other to create the circuits that underlie the perception of sound. The lab combines time-lapse imaging experiments with analysis of tissue-specific knock-outs and in vitro assays to characterize the critical cellular and molecular events. The impact of any changes in cochlear wiring is assessed by hearing tests in animals, thereby providing new insights into the logic of auditory circuits.
Zhihua Liu, PhD
Harvard Medical School, Dragana Rogulja, PhD Laboratory
Liu would like to understand why animals need to sleep, and how the brain reversibly switches between waking and sleep states. Using Drosophila as a model system for this research, the lab will characterize genes that have been identified through a large-scale screen, elucidating the molecular pathways in which the genes act. Liu will also look at the function of small, discrete neuronal populations that have been identified in the brain that are active sleep centers. Studying the novel sleep genes as well as sleep circuits will address the question of how animals sleep, whereas to understand why sleep is necessary, the lab will study why animals that are deprived of sleep die prematurely.