Awarded in 2015
Home Department: Neurology & Neurological Sciences
Faculty Advisor: Michelle Monje-Deisseroth (Neurology & Neurological Sciences)
Research Description: The white matter infrastructure of the brain depends on the function of a stem cell-like group of cells called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) that form an insulation called myelin around the long nerve fibers (much like wires) that connect electrically active brain cells. The Monje-Deisseroth research group has recently shown that more active neural circuits become better myelinated such that brain circuits used more function better. The molecules that mediate this adaptive effect of active brain cells on the behavior of OPCs is not yet well understood. One molecule, known to be expressed more in active brain regions, that modulates the behavior of OPCs during development or after certain forms of brain injury to promote growth and regeneration of myelin is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Anna’s project seeks to understand if BDNF regulates activity-dependent OPC proliferation and myelin growth in the healthy brain and if medicines that mimic BDNF could be used to promote regeneration after white matter injury.