Linden and Potter Each Awarded a School of Medicine Synergy Discovery Grant
The School of Medicine announced the 16 recipients of the Discovery Fund Synergy Awards (DFSA) Program. These awards are designed to spark new, synergistic interactions between investigators and potentiate scientific achievements of the highest quality and impact. Two of the 16 recipients are primary members of the Neuroscience department. David Linden (Neuroscience) and Gregory Ball (Psychology and Brain Sciences) were awarded a grant to study the modulation of synapses by estrogen as examined by subcellular resolution in the intact brain. Several lines of evidence suggest that memory is stored in the brain as enduring changes in the size and shape of dendritic spines, tiny micron-scale protrusions emitted from the neuron’s dendrite which sense neurotransmitter released by the closely-opposed presynaptic terminal. Since the early 1990s, it has been established that dendritic spine density varies by about 35% over the course of the ovarian cycle in female mammals, being higher in proestrus and diestrus and lower in estrus. Here’s the puzzle: If memory is mostly encoded in spiny synapses and if spine density fluctuates over the ovarian cycle, then how does long-term memory persist in female mammals in the face of this fluctuation? To begin to address this question, David Linden and Greg Ball will produce the first time-lapse movies of dendritic spines across the ovarian cycle in the brains of living adult mice. Christopher Potter (Neuroscience) and Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) were awarded a Synergy grant to image neural activity of the mosquito malaria vector Anopheles gambiae in response to sensory cues. Female mosquitoes excel at finding human hosts for a blood-meal. This host-seeking requires detection of a number of sensory modalities, including carbon dioxide, human body odors, and heat. These sensory cues work together to allow the mosquito to effectively locate a human. However, how these signals are integrated and interpreted by the mosquito brain is unknown. The Potter and Jacos-Lorena labs will generate transgenic A. gambiae mosquitoes and use functional imaging of the mosquito brain to identify the neural anatomy and sensory integration centers underlying host seeking. This work might one day help reduce the incidence of mosquito bites and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.