In Vivo Neuroscience
Developing a greater understanding of the brain is one of the greatest challenges facing science today. Central to progress in neuroscience is understanding neurotransmission or chemical communication between neurons. Over 100 different compounds have been identified as neurotransmitters including several amino acids, scores of peptides, acetylcholine, purines, catecholamines, and indoleamines. To understand how the release of these compounds affect brain function, it is invaluable to monitor their chemical dynamics in vivo.
We are developing new analytical tools to measure neurotransmitters in vivo. The basic premise is to sample from discrete brain regions and then analyze the resulting samples by high-throughput electrophoresis or LC-MS. We have developed novel approaches to fraction collection based on collecting nanoliter droplets; 2) analysis based on microfluidic-electrophoresis; and novel approaches to LC-MS including high sensitivity capillary LC.
These methods are used in collaboration with neuroscientists to study brain functions. Example projects including monitoring how neurotransmission changes during learning, determining the effect of drugs of abuse on neurochemicals (see effect of alcohol ingestion on amino acids in the brain below), and determining how pathologies such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease affect brain neurochemistry.