Beenhakker, Mark P.
Associate Professor, Pharmacology
PO Box 800735
1340 Jefferson Park Ave., Pinn Hall, Room 5017A
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Molecular Biology, Molecular Pharmacology, Neuroscience
Circuit mechanisms of sleep and epilepsy
Our lab aims to understand how the brain generates complex electrical signals, and how these signals are used to process information. A major extension of this aim is to understand why electrical activity in the brain becomes uncontrollable during certain diseases such as epilepsy. We use electrophysiological, anatomical and computational approaches to resolve these questions.
We primarily focus on cellular- and circuit-level questions in the thalamus, a structure that is generally believed to function as a relay station between the outside world and the cortex. However, the thalamus also plays a critical role in generating rhythmic network activity that is thought to facilitate the consolidation of memories during sleep. Furthermore, seizures associated with some forms of childhood/juvenile epilepsy are thought to be driven by thalamic circuits. Thus, the thalamus is engaged in several different processes, both normal and pathological. Designing experiments to resolve the mechanisms that underlie these processes forms the core of our research.
Current projects in the lab focus on the:
- excessive excitability of thalamic neurons associated with chloride channel dysfunction.
- network-level activity patterns observed in the thalamus during sleep and epilepsy.
- regulation of metabotropic signaling carried out by thalamic neurons.