Michael N Nitabach PhD, JD
Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and of Genetics
Neurophysiology; Molecular genetics; Systems Physiology; Animal Behavior
Our laboratory applies cellular, molecular, genetic, and systems biology approaches to the question of how neuronal physiological properties determine the information processing characteristics of neural networks. We take an interdisciplinary approach to these questions. We manipulate the physiological properties of neurons in directed ways by genetically targeted cell-specific expression of engineered proteins in transgenic animals. These engineered proteins include ion channel subunits, intracellular ionic buffers, signaling enzymes, membrane-tethered neuropeptides, and membrane-tethered peptide neurotoxins that target specific ion channel subtypes. Subsequently, we measure the effects of these manipulations on the whole-animal behavior of intact flies as well as on various physiological parameters of the manipulated neurons using cell biological, neurophysiological, functional imaging, and genomics/systems biology techniques. As model systems for addressing these issues, we study the neural circuits that control circadian rhythms of locomotor activity, sexual courtship behavior, sleep, energy metabolism, and decision making in Drosophila melanogaster flies and Caenorhabditis elegans worms.
We also have a new project in the laboratory aimed at identifying novel analgesics from the venom of Australian funnel-web spiders.