Heterogeneity of dopaminergic cells across different brain areas
Project ID: NMH39
Supervisor: Dr. Elisa Galliano
Second Supervisor:Prof. Roger Barker
Second Supervisor DepartmentDepartment of Clinical Neurosciences
Although dopaminergic neurons are only a minority of brain cells, their impact on behaviour is substantial. Indeed, they contribute to reward-motivated and motor behaviours, and their impairment has been linked to numerous diseases. Given their neurochemistry and relative scarceness, DA cells have been considered a homogenous population of projecting neurons, extremely susceptible to damage, and incapable of regeneration. However, recent studies have highlighted an extreme heterogeneity of morphology, physiology and connectivity among this rather small dopaminergic population, raising the question of whether these neurons have anything else in common besides dopamine itself. To answer this question we plan to take a holistic approach to compare features of dopaminergic populations across different brain areas. Specifically, using physiology, morphology and genetics, we want to compare the canonical midbrain dopaminergic cells with the relatively understudied group of highly plastic dopaminergic neurons in the olfactory bulb, some members of which retain the striking ability to regenerate throughout life.
This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Elisa Galliano, Professor Roger Barker and Dr Sue Jones.
This project encompasses a broad range of fields in fundamental and translational neuroscience: from dopaminergic physiology, to interneuron cell biology and circuit analysis. Moreover, dopaminergic bulbar cells are one of the only three neuronal populations capable to regenerate during adulthood and insert themselves into an already present network. When trying to functionally replace new cells into old circuits for therapeutic purposes, why not study how the brain does this naturally, and try to harness its mechanisms? Thus, this project has important implication for the wider field of autologous cell therapies for diseases involving the dopaminergic system, especially Parkinson’s disease.