Sanika Ganesh

Transcriptional Changes During Experience-Dependent Plasticity in Somatosensory Cortex

Neuroplasticity describes how the brain learns from experience. A proposed type of plasticity, rapid homeostasis, may be necessary for stabilizing activity on a short-time scale across primary sensory-processing regions of the brain. A class of inhibitory neurons known as parvalbumin (PV) neurons are thought to implement rapid homeostatic plasticity, but the field lacks a mechanistic understanding of exactly how PV neurons may regulate plasticity.
One way in which cells adapt to change is through varying protein expression. For example, recent studies suggest that neuregulins (NRGs) and tyrosine kinase receptors (ErbBs) mediate signaling pathways that are critical to establishing early visual plasticity in PV neurons. I am studying whether the expression of several genes, including genes encoding proteins from the NRG and ErbB families, drive rapid homeostatic plasticity in PV neurons of somatosensory cortex.
I will use TRAP (translating ribosome affinity purification) methodology and RT-qPCR to analyze the RNA content of PV neurons. TRAP tags ribosomes with antibodies to isolate actively-translated mRNA, while RT-qPCR quantifies the expression of gene targets.

Message to Sponsor

Thanks to the SURF Rose Hills Independent Program, I had the opportunity to work full-time on my senior thesis this summer. This was the best summer of my college experience; I transitioned from being a somewhat insecure, young student to a more confident, experienced researcher. My research project has challenged me in ways I did not expect; I have definitely learned how to think critically and troubleshoot experiments. This summer, I successfully implemented new molecular biology techniques in the physiology lab that I've been working at for 3 years, which I was proud of. I am looking forward to collecting data to answer the scientific questions of my senior thesis this fall. Over the summer, I also dived into reading papers about my project, and I am completely captivated by the science. I hope that I am able to contribute to the literature with findings from this study. I really appreciated the opportunity to present my project as a 10-minute public lecture at the end of the summer at the SURF conference. I'll also be presenting this work at the Berkeley Annual Neuroscience Conference. I can't wait to attend graduate school and pursue these research interests further!
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology: Neurobiology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Independent
  • Mentor: Daniel Feldman