Golowasch Lab

Research activities

One of the most important properties of the nervous system is its plasticity. Plasticity guarantees the ability of an organism to adapt to a changing environment, as well as changing internal conditions such as growth and recovery from injury or disease. Neuronal plasticity is typically thought to be a property more or less exclusive of synapses (short- and long-term synaptic plasticity). However, other neuronal components also are plastic. This includes structural elements (dendrites, axons, etc.) and the many ion channels expressed by neurons, both of which being able to change sometimes rapidly in response to, for example, the neurons' own activity patterns. The latter is refered to as "intrinsic plasticity".

An undesirable consequence of plasticity, however, is that it can potential destabilize the system that expresses it. Yet, in spite of being highly plastic, neurons and neural networks maintain relatively stable activity properties.

Plasticity can, in principle, underlie some forms of learning and memory (currently almost entirely attributed to synaptic plasticity), as well as recovery from injury and different sorts of perturbation.

The goal of my research activities is to understand the mechanisms that allow the nervous system to be simultaneously plastic (and responsive to environmental and internal changes), and also to be stable. My work is based on the assumption that simultaneous stability and plasticity can only come about when neurons globally adjust their properties as they locally make adaptive changes to specific conditions and perturbations. 

In all my work I apply, both experimental (electrophysiology, cell and molecular biology) as well as theoretical (analytical and computational) approaches.