• Morris Benveniste, Ph.D.

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  • Research Interests

    Study of Plasticity in Aging and Epilepsy
    The ability of nerve cells to change their behavior in response to their past experience is termed “Plasticity”. We study the two basic types of neuronal plasticity that occur in brain circuitry. Synaptic plasticity is the strengthening or weakening of functional connections between nerve cells; while intrinsic (E-S) plasticity results from changing electrical reactivity of the nerve cell downstream from its synaptic connections.

    One major theory in Neuroscience is that learning results from modification of neuronal circuitry. Why is it more difficult for some elderly people to learn? Why do some people with epilepsy, or those who have traumatic brain injury find it difficult to learn?

    We study the mechanisms of changing neuronal circuitry by investigating how changing channel activity and localization contributes to plasticity in aging and disease states. If we can understand how circuitry changes in response to neurological disease, we will gain insight into possible treatments. Similarly, if we can understand how circuitry changes during the lifespan, it may be possible to develop new paradigms for learning and memory retention.

    Glutamate Receptor Activation and Desensitization
    Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for rapid excitatory signaling between nerve cells. Glutamate receptor channels open and produce electrical signals in response to binding glutamate. Although many parts of these channels have been crystalized so that we know somewhat how they look, a complete picture of how they function requires the study of their activity with precise models of how the channels work and are modulated. We analyze electrophysiological voltage clamp experiments with specific mathematical models to determine the molecular transitions required in the processes that open and modulate glutamate-gated channels.

    Research Key Words:  Aging, Epilepsy, Electrophysiology, Glutamate, Ion Channels