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The Ryan Lab is interested in understanding the molecular rules that allow neurons to carry out their myriad functions. Our emphasis is to develop and apply robust analytical quantitative tools to explore new areas of cell biology that are important for how neurons work. We have historically concentrated in understanding now nerve terminals, the presynaptic machinery of fast chemical communication in the brain, function.
Most neurons in the brain must live for the life of the organism without replacement. Individually they are hubs of information transfer receiving synaptic inputs from thousands of different cells from which a decision on whether to relay this signal to its own output channel, their axon that forms synaptic connections in turn with up to thousands of other neurons in a network. These machineries are cell biological marvels as they must operate over enormous distance scales but rely on the precise coordination of thousands of gene products to carry out synaptic communication.
The Ryan Lab develops and deploys quantitative optical tools that allow us to precisely interrogate molecular questions of nerve terminal function. We are currently digging into relatively unexplored problems of synapse function such as the role of the endoplasmic reticulum in nerve terminal function and how local energy metabolism is regulated.