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Pacemaker channels and brain excitability

The brain is an intricate electrical machine that needs to be nimble enough to adapt quickly to information but can’t be too unstable for risk of having seizures.

Aims

In this project the student will use this equipment in combination with state of the art molecular and optogenetic techniques to better understand how HCN channels work in a normal brain.

A range of different ion channels work in concert to keep this balance. One such type of channel is the HCN channel that passes a pacemaker current. These channels are important for a range of brain functions that include learning and memory, fear and sleep. Dysfunction in these channels can also cause disease including epilepsy, mood disturbances and cognitive decline. Knowing how these channels control neuron excitability is therefore central to our understanding of the working and pathological brain. The laboratory has just acquired a Polygon light stimulator that can precisely pattern light allowing the interrogation of neuron and synaptic function.

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