Current Research Interests
The research in the lab is focused on Neurobiology, but is separated into three distinct areas: Neural Development & Stem Cell Biology, Neurobiology of Motivation, and Learning and Memory Genes.
Our Neural Development and Stem Cell Biology project involves the development of the mammalian brain, eye, and pancreas. Neural stem cells also are present throughout the lifetime of the animal, and are being localized characterized. We have also discovered a surprising capacity of the adult mammalian eye to regrow. Our experimental approach involves culturing mouse retinal stem cells from normal and genetically modified mice, in order to understand the factors that control retinal stem cell activity. Finally, we have isolated a rare cell from the adult mouse pancreas that can show extensive proliferation under defined conditions in vitro (Seaberg et al, 2004). These cells may comprise a population of adult mammalian pancreatic stem cells, which might in the future be employed in treating type 1 diabetics.
The primary objective of the Neurobiology of Motivation project is to characterize how the brain processes and distinguishes different types of rewards, e.g. nicotine, food, opiates (morphine). Our overall hypothesis is that two discrete neural mechanisms underlie the rewarding effects of opiates in drug naive animals (processed by TPP) versus drug-dependent and deprived animals (utilizing dopamine). Proposed experiments will further test and reveal the structure of motivational systems in the mammalian brain.
Our Learning and Memory Genes project has resulted in the development of associative and non-associative learning paradigms using olfactory and taste stimuli in the worm C. elegans. Mutational screens in progress have identified new genes that code for critical components of associative and non-associative learning; revealing the separable neuronal and molecular substrates underlying associative learning and habituation. Our goal is to use the power and specificity of modern molecular genetics to reveal the component processes of learning and memory by using the C.elegan's genes.
For additional information, please visit the van der Kooy Laboratory website
- Tania Alexson
- Mary Rose Bufalino
Laviolette, S.R., Gallegos, R.A., Henriksen, S.J., and van der Kooy, D. Opiate state controls bi-directional reward signaling via GABAA receptors in the ventral tegmental area. Nature Neuroscience, 7 (2004) 160-169.
Smukler, S.R., Runciman, S.B., Xu, S., Mak, T.W., and van der Kooy, D. A default mechanism underlies the direct acquisition of a primitive neural stem cell identity by embryonic stem cells. Journal of Cell Biology, 172 (2006):79-90.