Office of the President

Understanding Neural Networks

Dr. Jorge Golowasch is studying neuron activity.

A better understanding of the cellular mechanisms that allow a neural network to produce stable behavior while retaining the flexibility to respond to the disruptions produced by growth, learning, sensory input and injury is the focus of research by Jorge Golowasch, associate professor of mathematical sciences and biology. In a five-year project funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, he is investigating a mechanism known as activity-dependent regulation of voltage-sensitive ionic currents which he believes may underlie the expression of these two seemingly paradoxical aspects of neuronal activity, namely flexibility and stability. Ionic currents produce the electrical changes that characterize neuronal activity, and individual neurons and neural networks carry signals throughout the nervous system that are responsible for the generation of behavior. This mechanism is potentially of great importance as it may underlie a new form of learning and memory via its stabilizing effect on neural network activity.

Dr. Golowasch is also part of multi-institutional team funded by the NSF to construct a computational model of the pyloric neural network, part of a larger complex called the stomatogastric ganglion, which generates rhythmic activity in the gut of crustaceans. The neuron activity in this simple system offers insights into more complex nervous systems, and studies of it have been done in many different laboratories. Dr. Golowasch's group will coordinate the efforts of these various investigations to construct a definitive model of the system