This proposal aims at establishing a novel paradigm for astrocytes, which are classically regarded as non-neuronal cells, forming only a support network for neurons. However, recent studies have provided evidence that astrocytes are involved in data processing in the cortex by regulating the neural response magnitude and duration. Furthermore, they appear to have an intermediary role in neurovascular coupling and the signaling pathways that mediate functional hyperemia are regulated by astrocytes. The PI proposes to establish a new platform technology to selectively manipulate neuronal/astrocytic activity and simultaneously record cellular/hemodynamic signals.
The PI has established track records in mentoring students and participating in outreach programs. The opportunities for training and teaching of undergraduate and graduate as well as making impact on undergraduate summer research program and K-12 outreach programs are excellent at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The applicant has provided detailed plans for the development teaching materials and courses that he plans to develop as well as how he plans to mentor and train undergraduate and graduate students. The proposed outreach program is also well developed. The applicant provides clear plan for how he plans to evaluate each component of the proposed teaching and outreach program.
The PI will combine optogenetics for modulation of cellular activity of neurons and astrocytes with spectral-domain coherence tomography to monitor hemodynamic signals, and two-photon microscopy to observe cellular activity. Since both cellular activity and hemodynamics will be triggered by means of optogenetic modulation, their correlation permits conclusions about the roles of both, astrocytes and neurons. The optogenetic and microscopy experiments will be complemented by a novel electrophysiology platform that the PI has recently developed for optogenetic electrocorticography (ECoG) experiments. Electrophysiological recording of calcium waves will permit a comparison of astrocyte activity and neuronal activity.
This award is co-funded by the Biophotonics program in the Engineering Directorate and the Neural Systems program in the BIO Directorate.