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Molly-Maureen Huntsman


GUMC Adjunct -- Assistant Professor




My research interests involve studying the functional properties of inhibitory connections in the cerebral cortex. One way to study inhibitory connections is by examining synaptic currents that are mediated through the GABAA receptor. This receptor is a primary target of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain (GABA) and is responsible for many different functions: controlling the spread of excitation observed in epileptiform activity, shaping receptive field properties in sensory processing and in experience-dependent plasticity of topographic maps. The way in which the GABAA receptor system is able to handle these very diverse tasks is through the expression and regulation of multiple types of receptors that are created by different combinations of subunits.

Thus the key to functional heterogeneity of the GABAA receptor system lies in the regional- and cellular-specific expression of the different subunit proteins. One goal is to determine how individual subunits contribute to the overall synaptic response. Another goal will be to examine whether altering levels of activity results in alterations of ion channel function. This will be achieved through a combined approach involving the examination of biophysical, molecular and anatomical characteristics of neurons in the rodent cerebral cortex. The techniques that will be employed include: whole-cell patch clamp recordings from acute brain slices, GABAA receptor transgenic mice, subcloning GABAA receptor subunit cDNAs, in situ hybridization of subunit mRNAs, and semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplification of subunit cDNAs. It is hoped that this strategy will lead to an improved understanding of GABAA receptor subunit contributions in intracortical circuits, in addition to, improved therapies in the treatment of certain types of epilepsies.