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Research in the Cohen Lab focuses on understanding the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie cognitive impairments associated with traumatic brain injury. The lab has a particular interest in alterations in neuronal excitability in the brain’s limbic system, which plays a primary role in higher cognitive function (e.g. learning and memory) and is damaged in traumatic brain injury. The lab recently found that alterations in glial and neuronal cellular metabolism can contribute to regional shifts in hippocampal network excitability.
The Cohen Lab employs a variety of techniques to understand the nature and functional consequences of injury-induced alterations. Their studies involve contextual fear conditioning as a behavioral means to assess cognitive impairments and extracellular field potential recording, which the team then uses to evaluate the functional status of the injured hippocampus. The lab implements unbiased stereology to quantify the degree of cell death, and single-cell recording techniques allow the lab to probe the changes to both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission following injury.
In addition, the lab uses biochemical methods to examine specific proteins that have been altered by injury and may underlie synaptic and/or circuit dysfunction. High- pressure liquid chromatography and gas chromatography mass spectrophotometry allow the lab to quantitate and examine alterations in glial and neuronal metabolic pathways. The combination of these methodologies is expected to help elucidate putative mechanisms causing injury-induced cognitive deficits.
A better understanding of these injury-induced alterations will provide insight for directing the development of potential therapies that aim to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction in patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.