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Work in the McBain Laboratory is targeted towards elucidating the precise nature of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission between specific identified neural populations within the hippocampus and cortical formations. Using electrophysiological, immunohistochemical, anatomical and molecular techniques we hope to gain significant insight into the activity dependent regulation of synaptic efficacy under both physiological and pathophysiological conditions. It is our hope that by understanding the basic mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission onto specific targets we can begin to elucidate the roles played by the various neuronal and non-neuronal elements in specific clinically relevant disorders.
As our model we have chosen to study subpopulations of principal and local circuit inhibitory interneurons within the hippocampal formation. At the level of the hippocampal network, the net flow of information is strongly modulated by the action of the local-circuit GABAergic inhibitory interneurons, whose cell bodies are distributed throughout all layers of the hippocampus and comprise ~10-15% of the total neuronal population. Work performed in my laboratory over the last few years has contributed to a growing body of literature showing that not only do the basic physiological properties of these cells differ from pyramidal neurons, but interneurons also possess a repertoire of both voltage gated and ligand gated channels distinct from principal neurons. These differences range from the molecular identity of receptors and channels to mechanisms of short- and long-term synaptic plasticity and signal transduction mechanisms associated with glutamate receptors.