I have a long-standing interest in neuroscience with a particular focus on communication between neurons (termed synaptic transmission). My graduate work (with Dr. Wade Regehr, Harvard Medical School) explored the regulation of synaptic transmission in the cerebellum, while my postdoctoral training (with Dr. Josh Kaplan, MGH) utilized the nematode C. elegans to develop a tractable genetic model for synaptic communication in a simple model nervous system. My research group at Weill Cornell continues to employ C. elegans for detailed mechanistic studies examining the secretion of neurotransmitter in health and disease. How is the precise timing of neurotransmitter release controlled and modulated? What are the consequences of disruptions in this critical process? Human mutations in several key synaptic proteins are associated with severe forms of autism and epilepsy, so a better understanding of how these proteins control neurotransmitter release will aid in the classification and treatment of these complex multifactorial neurological conditions.
Jeremy S. Dittman, MD, PhD