David DiGregorio is the Head of the Unit of Dynamic Neuronal Imaging. His unit specializes in developing and using optical methods to study how neurons and neuronal circuits process sensory information.
Within the brain there are billions of cells (neurons) that communicate with each other via specialized contacts called synapses, where a chemical (neurotransmitter) is passed between the two cells. Defects in the communication between synapses are thought to be at the heart of the memory deficits associated with neuropathological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, elucidating the properties of synapses and their ability to adapt the strength of such communication is fundamental to our understanding of brain function, learning, and memory storage under normal and pathological conditions. Such questions are generally addressed with electrophysiology, but his laboratory has taken the ambitious step to develop and apply optical tools to study the physiological signaling within neuronal subcompartments that are inaccessible to most other methods. The work in his laboratory has been focused on the development of optical techniques, which circumvent this temporal and spatial barrier, including: rapid two-photon and single photon calcium imaging and detection, optical detection of neuronal membrane voltage, and neurotransmitter uncaging. By monitoring and manipulating synaptic signaling in thin dendrites, single spines, dendritic branches and even in presynaptic boutons we will identify new cellular mechanisms fundamental for understanding information flow, and the computation power of neurons within the brain.