Neurological Foundation Philip Wrightson Postdoctoral Fellowship

$180,629

Dr Rashi Karunasinghe
Department of Physiology, University of Auckland

Filling in the gaps in the brain: the developmental roles of extracellular hyaluronan in neuronal signalling and plasticity

The role of a molecular sugar in brain development 

The brain is a complex organ with a remarkable ability to remodel its circuitry. This unique feature, termed ‘plasticity,’ dynamically modifies the signalling between brain cells. For example, brain plasticity is important during learning and encoding memories. On the other hand, a stabilisation of circuits is responsible for the consolidation of existing memories. The mechanisms involved in regulating brain plasticity (versus stability) are not well understood. Dr Karunasinghe’s preliminary research findings indicate intriguing roles for an extracellular matrix sugar called hyaluronan. This project will follow how neurons regulate hyaluronan levels in order to modify their molecular, structural, and electrophysiological properties during brain development.