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Michael Westberg: Orthogonal Optogenetic Control of Synapse Signaling

Visiting Scholar or Visiting Postdoc Fellowships
Awarded in 2018


Visiting Scholar: Michael Westberg (Aarhus University)

Stanford Faculty Advisor: Michael Lin (Neurobiology, Bioengineering), Possu Huang (Bioengineering)


Orthogonal Optogenetic Control of Synapse Signaling

Dynamical changes of neuronal connections, synapses, play a vital role in brain function. In particular, two forms of neuronal plasticity called long term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD) result in molecular reorganizations that, respectively, strengthen or weaken synapses. In the healthy brain, these processes are believed to drive learning and memory function. In contrast, dysregulation of synaptic plasticity has been associated with drug abuse and mental illness. Michael’s aim in this project is to develop a toolset that allows him to optically control the activity of multiple enzymes involved in the subcellular regulation of synapses. Specifically, he will use orthogonal fluorescent proteins that reversibly change their oligomeric state upon absorption of light to create new photoswitchable enzymes. He will employ these novel optogenetic tools to induce spatially and temporally coordinated LTP and LTD in attempt to identify general mechanisms that control synaptic remodeling.