Michael J Higley MD,PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology; Primary Member, Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair (CNNR); Member, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience

Research Interests

Synaptic Integration; GABAergic Inhibition; Dendrites; Electrophysiology; Multiphoton Imaging

Current Projects

  • Development, plasticity, and function of inhibitory GABAergic synapses. We are particularly interested in GABAergic inputs to neuronal dendrites.
  • Functional organization of neuronal circuits in mouse visual cortex.
  • Modulation of synaptic transmission by norepinephrine and acetylcholine.
  • Disruption of neocortical synapses and circuits in mouse models of autism and schizophrenia.

Research Summary

The neocortex plays a central role in the processing, storage, and retrieval of information necessary for sensory perception and higher cognitive abilities. These functions depend on the capability of individual neurons to perform complex computations through the compartmentalization of electrical and biochemical signaling within their dendritic arbors. Our goal is to understand how the dynamic interactions of excitatory, inhibitory, and neuromodulatory inputs within different subcellular domains influence the activity of single neurons and the local networks in which they participate. By combining an array of methods, including electrophysiology, multiphoton microscopy, and optogenetic manipulation of targeted neuronal populations, we are bridging the gaps between molecular, cellular, and systems neuroscience. With this multilevel approach, we hope to generate new insights into the neural mechanisms of complex behaviors and the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and autism.

Extensive Research Description

The neocortex plays a central role in the processing, storage, and retrieval of information necessary for sensory perception and higher cognitive abilities. These functions depend on the capability of individual neurons to perform complex computations through the compartmentalization of electrical and biochemical signaling within their dendritic arbors. Our goal is to understand how the dynamic interactions of excitatory, inhibitory, and neuromodulatory inputs within different subcellular domains influence the activity of single neurons and the local networks in which they participate. By combining an array of methods, including electrophysiology, multiphoton microscopy, and optogenetic manipulation of targeted neuronal populations, we are bridging the gaps between molecular, cellular, and systems neuroscience. With this multilevel approach, we hope to generate new insights into the neural mechanisms of complex behaviors and the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and autism.


Selected Publications

  • Chiu CQ, Lur G, Morse TM, Carnevale NT, Ellis-Davies G, and Higley MJ. Compartmentalization of GABAergic inhibition by dendritic spines. Science, 340:759-62.
  • Higley MJ and Sabatini BL. Competitive regulation of synaptic Ca2+ influx by D2 dopamine and A2A adenosine receptors. Nature Neuroscience 13:958-66, 2010.
  • Higley MJ*, Soler-Llavina G*, and Sabatini BL. Cholinergic modulation of multivesicular release regulates striatal synaptic potency and integration. Nature Neuroscience,12:1121-28, 2009.
  • Higley MJ and Sabatini BL. Calcium signaling in dendrites and spines: practical and functional considerations. Neuron 59: 902-13, 2008.
  • Higley MJ and Contreras D. Cellular mechanisms of suppressive interactions between somatosensory responses in vivo. J. Neurophys. 97:647-58, 2007
  • Higley MJ and Contreras D. Balanced excitation and inhibition determine spike timing during frequency adaptation. J Neurosci 26: 448-57, 2006.

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