Nelson Spruston moved to Janelia Farm in 2011 after spending the first 16 years of his academic career in the Neurobiology department at Northwestern University, where he was the department chair from 2009-11. He was attracted to Janelia Farm by its uniquely focused and productive research environment and the opportunity to contribute to further development of Janelia as a Scientific Program Director, by catalyzing team projects and recruiting new scientific talent.
Spruston wants to understand how the properties of individual neurons contribute to the computational performance of neural circuits controlling cognition and behavior. Most of this computation occurs in dendrites, so much of his work has focused on how structurally and molecularly sophisticated dendritic trees integrate thousands of synaptic inputs to generate action potential firing in the axon. His lab has studied how dendritic excitability is determined by the interactions between dendritic branching and the properties and distributions of dendritic ion channels and synapses, leading to insight concerning the role of backpropagating action potentials and dendritic spikes in synaptic integration and plasticity. His lab also made the surprising discovery that axons can perform sophisticated integrative functions. At Janelia Farm, he plans to continue this line of work, extending it to examine the integrative function of various genetically defined cell types in the hippocampus.
Spruston has a B.S. degree from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine. He did postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany.