Development and regulation of individual mammalian CNS synapses

A single central neuron can receive signals from up to 50,000 other neurons, which each connect to the central neuron across a synaptic junction. Dr. Timothy Murphy studies individual synapses in the mammalian central nervous system to determine how each contact develops and is regulated. The development and functioning of these individual connections are believed to be building blocks in creating and strengthening the neuronal networks for learning and memory. Dr. Murphy and his colleagues are investigating a number of aspects related to individual synapses. They include: the mechanisms that control the strength of synaptic transmissions at single contacts; the role of calcium in synapse development; the mechanisms that prevent excess calcium from flowing into neurons; and how different types of calcium channels in neurons react to specific and complex patterns of electrical signals in the brain. These basic insights into the behaviour of central nervous system synapses will be important for future diagnostics, as well as therapeutics for diseases of the central nervous system. For example, alterations in synaptic transmission play a role in the origins and treatment of stroke, depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy.