Research: Annalisa Scimemi

The brain regulates every aspect of our daily life, yet many of the fundamental mechanisms underlying its function remain unclear. How do neurons in the brain exchange information among each other? How is their activity conveyed across neurons in different brain regions and how is it shaped by astrocytes?

microscopeIn our lab, we are interested in understanding the functional properties of central synapses, the specialized structures that convert the electrical activity of a neuron into a chemical signal for its target cells. We want to understand how individual molecules are distributed within the synapse and how their spatial arrangement influences the properties of neurotransmitter release. We want to know how neurotransmitters diffuse outside of the synapse and generate long-distance signals to different cells. Our ultimate goal is to gain insights into the functional consequences of changes in synaptic function associated with the onset of different neuropsychiatric and neurodenegerative disorders.

To perform our studies, we use a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches, including electrophysiology, optogenetics, two-photon imaging and reaction-diffusion computer simulations. We are also eager to learn and develop novel experimental approaches and research tools.

    Research in the lab is currently designed to address the following questions:
  1. How are individual molecules are distributed within presynaptic terminals and how does their distribution influences the properties of neurotransmitter release from small central synapses?
  2. How do astrocytes regulate the spread of synaptic signals in the brain?
  3. How do changes in the activity of cortical synaptic circuits lead to the onset of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases?