During development, the brain generates activity spontaneously, without any stimulus from the outside world. This activity trains the brain to be ready for sensory input and is important for the maturation of brain circuits. My research in the Bergles lab has uncovered the involvement of astrocytes, a glial cell type in the brain, which were often thought to be merely supporting cells. Using advanced imaging and molecular techniques, I have found that astrocytes and neurons coordinate spontaneous activity during early development of the auditory system, and that this activity likely mediates the maturation of both cell types. These results position astrocytes as potential therapeutic targets for disorders that involve the maturation of brain circuits, such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.
Questions & Answers
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work? I chose Johns Hopkins because I was very interested in the superb research coming from the Bergles lab. I also heard great things about Johns Hopkins’ reputation as a top-notch university for research while still maintaining a collaborative environment. What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received? Research is hard work and it often goes unrecognized, so getting this award made me feel very excited and honored. Upon reading the biography of W. Barry Wood Jr., I felt truly inspired. He made so many contributions to science and also to policies within the university. I aspire to leave such a legacy as he did. What contributed to your project’s success? (Special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.) My project has been successful thanks to the collaborative nature of science in my lab and also at Hopkins. The Center for Hearing and Balance has been a great source of information about the auditory system and a community of auditory researchers. The shared resources in our department, such as the Multiphoton Imaging Core and the Machine Shop, really make research possible and fun. Also, the guidance and support of my adviser, Dwight Bergles, has been instrumental. What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Hopkins? I think it is really outstanding that Hopkins recognizes the contributions of students and postdoctoral fellows through Young Investigators’ Day and gives us an opportunity to shine. I am honored to have been selected for this award. What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Hopkins? I had the opportunity to work with Dr. David Mintz, who is an anesthesiologist and associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine here at Hopkins. These collaborations with clinicians are truly what make working at Hopkins so exciting. What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.? I am currently looking for academic faculty positions and hope to open my own lab next year. Tell me something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences? I am originally from Israel, and as we have mandatory army service, I spent two years after high school in the Israeli army helping notify families about injured and deceased soldiers. This experience gave me a very broad perspective about the world and helped determine the path I wanted to take in my career.