Synapse formation and autism

Role of neurotransmitter release in formation of early connections

Neuronal activity is well known to be important for the refinement and maintenance of developing connections, but research has usually focused on action potential firing. We recently identified spontaneous glutamate release, acting via NMDA receptors, as playing a key role in the generation of complex dendritic arbors. We are now investigating this further.

Excitatory / inhibitory balance in models of autism

We are investigating how the balance between excitation and inhibition is changed and disrupted in autism, using in vitro approaches in both rodent models (acute and organotypic brain slices, dissociated neurons) and human inducible pluripotent stem cells. We are addressing both cellular and synaptic structure and function.

Cortical connectivity in autism

In collaboration with Declan Murphy and Grainne McAlonan at the Institute of Psychiatry, we are using combined magnetic resonance imaging and high resolution of optically cleared brains (CLARITY) to compare atypical connectivity in both individuals with autism and rodent models.