Michael A. Colicos
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Preferred method of communication
Research and teaching
My laboratory focuses on the study of synaptic remodelling, and the changes in neuronal connectivity that results. To accomplish this we use a unique neuronal-silicon interface which allows us to cause specific neurons to fire in a living neuronal network grown on a silicon wafer. By combining this with high resolution live imaging of protein dynamics we can investigate the biochemical mechanisms that govern how our brains rewire themselves in response to specific activity patterns. We work mainly with the proteins, neuroligin, PSD-95 as well as the NMDA receptor, which are all involved in the construction and function of postsynaptic sites. Using electrophysiology and optical imaging, we can also see how specific genetic changes associated with conditions such as autism and epilepsy alter information flow through the brain. Since we use a neuronal co-culture based paradigm, we can then test directly the effect of various therapeutic agents on both neuronal and glial communication, hopefully restoring them to a normal state. In addition to investigating brain physiology and circuits, we are also pursuing more translational projects with engineering and physics departments. By combining our neuronal interfacting technologies with chaos theory and other models, we have the potential to develop a biocomputational device: a system in which user defined information is put into a living neuronal network, and once processed, read back out. These endeavors would not only bring us closer to understanding how the brain works, but also develop a computational device of extreme parallel processing power.