My overall research interests concern how plastic changes at the synaptic and systems level are maintained or modified by ongoing neuronal activity, and how these processes contribute to sensory and cognitive processes. Our research group aims to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for the activity-dependent modification of synaptic plasticity in the nervous system, and to target these mechanisms to develop new therapeutic strategies for pain and cognitive disorders.
Our research program builds upon observations that pain hypersensitivity can be modulated and reversed at the level of the spinal cord through an analogue of memory reconsolidation: a protein synthesis-dependent process by which memories are rendered labile and erasable when they are reactivated. We are exploring the mechanisms by which reconsolidation occurs in both sensory and memory systems through the complementary use of electrophysiological, optogenetic, and behavioural approaches. This work has several main research themes:
- Identifying the molecular mechanisms by which reconsolidation modifies or disrupts memory traces
- Exploring the role of synaptic reconsolidation in the regulation and maintenance of synaptic plasticity
- Studying the therapeutic potential of reconsolidation within experimental models of pathological pain and cognitive disorders
- Developing novel approaches for the optogenetic dissection of sensory processing pathways in the spinal cord