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NIH awards $2.4 million to MPFI scientist to investigate role of astrocytes in neural circuits

July 28, 2016

Dr. James Schummers, Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI), has been awarded a $2.4 million five-year grant from the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the properties of astrocytes, a prominent non-neuronal cell type in the brain, and what role they play in neural circuit function.

Astrocytes are intimately interconnected with neurons, and the two cell types have been shown to communicate with each other bi-directionally. The role that astrocytes play in brain function has not been studied extensively in comparison to neurons, despite evidence suggesting that astrocyte dysfunction is a factor in multiple brain disorders. To help discover how astrocytes may be involved in brain disorder and disease, Schummers' work under this grant aims to uncover fundamental properties of how astrocytes interact with neurons in healthy tissue. Specifically, Schummers' work will study calcium signaling of astrocytes in the visual cortex.

"Our ability to address certain mental health disorders where astrocytes may be involved has been hampered by a lack of understanding of their normal function in the brain," explained Schummers. "With this funding, we hope to shed light on fundamental properties of astrocytes that will provide an important baseline against which to compare and test the role of astrocytes in brain disorders."
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This research is being supported by the NEI of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under award number R01EY026977. The content of this release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

NEI leads the federal government's research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

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