University of Colorado School of Medicine, USA
New approaches for investigating and manipulating neuronal cell biology
Optogenetic tools for driving or suppressing neuronal action potentials with light have had a transformative impact. While control of neural firing is immensely powerful for relating specific neural circuits to the behaviors they control, there remains an unmet need for precise, rapid and local control of intracellular processes that govern more subtle, but important aspects of neuronal function and development. I will describe approaches we have developed for conditionally and locally controlling synaptic strength using different classes of optogenetic actuators based on plant photoreceptors. In many cases, development of these approaches has revealed new insights into synaptic function, including the functional importance of postsynaptic nanoarchitecture.
Dr. Kennedy received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from St. John’s University before pursuing his PhD studies with Dr. James Hurley at the University of Washington. Here he investigated how light triggered signaling pathways in rod and cone photoreceptors are rapidly and precisely switched off following light exposure. Dr. Kennedy pursued postdoctoral studies with Dr. Graeme Davis at University of California, San Francisco and Dr. Michael Ehlers at Duke University where he investigated cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in diverse model organisms. Dr. Kennedy started his own lab in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado in 2011 with a focus on the mechanisms of synapse development, function and plasticity as well as building new tools to precisely manipulate neuronal cell biology.