In order for the brain and peripheral nervous system to work properly, neurons must communicate effectively with one another. This communication is accomplished at specialized structures called synapses. The vast majority of synaptic contacts are made on neuronal dendrites. Synaptic complexes found in dendrites are complex transduction machines created by a partnership between pre- and postsynaptic cells. The dendritic membrane outside of the synaptic specialization is also a highly specialized, dynamic structure that is richly invested with voltage-dependent ion channels, G-protein coupled receptors, signaling enzymes, translational and protein processing machinery. Fundamental insights into the roles of dendrites in health and disease are emerging from our ability to visualize these microscopic regions dynamically in living tissue. NU is rapidly becoming a world center in the study of dendrites and synaptic function. The NU group was nucleated by the recruitment of Drs. Nelson Spruston and Catherine Wooley, internationally recognized leaders in the study of neuronal dendrites. In 2001, Dr. James Surmeier was recruited to the Chair of the Physiology Department at FSM. Having a well-established reputation for the study of neuromodulatory mechanisms that are critical to dendritic function in neurons, he put in motion a strategic plan to dramatically expand the group of neuroscientists working in this area at NU. This decision was predicated upon 1) existing strengths in this area, 2) the recognition that this was an emerging area of neuroscience and 3) the conviction that a wide array of major neurological disorders - Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, and drug abuse - were likely to be primarily disorders of dendrites and synaptic function. With the recruitment of twelve new faculty members into this area in the last three years, this group has achieved a critical mass. Even though the recruitment has focused heavily on junior investigators (because this is an emerging area of neuroscience), the group is already very well funded by NIH, receiving roughly $12M in 2004-05, of which $XM is derived from NINDS. This figure is sure to grow as many of the young recruits with 2P expertise (e.g., P. Osten, J. Waters, G. Shepherd) are submitting their first grants to NINDS this year.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Center Core Grants (P30)
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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Initial Review Group (NSD)
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Northwestern University at Chicago
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