Marco Capogna granted 2 million DKK by AUFF NOVA to study novel neuron types in the mammalian brain

Marco Capogna will receive the grant over a 3 year period for a project dedicated to discover novel cellular mechanisms linking anxiety and emotion with sleep deprivation. The project aims to test the hypothesis that nitric oxide-expressing GABAergic neurons are key cellular element in this process.

2016.11.25 | Emilie Marie Niebuhr Aagaard

The AUFF NOVA grant is only awarded to projects that are pioneering in their field and show clear potential for scientific breakthroughs. Marco Capogna project awarded a AUFF NOVA grant of 2 million DKK in order to study the role of GABAergic neurons of the mouse amygdala on sleep-wake cycle.

Description of the project

Understanding the function of GABAergic cell classes of the amygdala can greatly improve our knowledge of the cellular underpinnings of emotional behavior and, as a result, improve therapies for psychiatric disorders. Capogna’s group has recently reported a novel GABAergic neuron type of the rodent basolateral amygdala that expresses high levels of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS, anatomical reconstruction of one of these neurons in the picture – yellow, soma and dendrites; blue, axon). Capogna’s group has recently reported that this neuron type is activated during sleep, but inhibited during wakefulness (Bocchio et al, eNeuro, 2016).

To progress, the AUFF NOVA research project proposes to detect the electrical activity of nNOS-expressing neurons in rodents in vivo. To achieve this aim, optogenetic-assisted juxtacellular recording will allow electrophysiological recording and morphological characterization of nNOS-expressing neurons. Optical fibres coupled with glass pipette to optogenetically stimulate, record and label nNOS-expressing neurons will be inserted into the amygdala of transgenic mice. The nNOS-expressing neurons that conditionally express channelrhodopsin will be identified by their tight temporal responsiveness to light stimulation. The “functional hypothesis” is that the functional activity of nNOS-expressing GABAergic neurons is critically dependent on brain-states, that is high during sleep and low during wakefulness. By using the juxtacellular approach, the dendritic and axonal patterns of the recorded neurons will be characterized. The “anatomical hypothesis” is that these neurons are long-range GABAergic neurons that target distant, extra-amygdaloid areas (e.g., striatum, cortex).

The project has the potential to provide an unprecedented link between a specific neuron type of the amygdala and the sleep-wake cycle.

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