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Julie Haas, Ph.D.
Julie Haas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Julie Haas, Ph.D.  earned her undergraduate degree in Music and Mathematics from Indiana University.  She then went on to Boston University where she was awarded her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering.  Dr. Haas’s teaching interests include introducing students to the variety and complexity of communication in the brain.

Dr. Haas notes, “My work focuses on the plasticity of electrical synapses in the context of normal and abnormal brain activity. Activity-dependent changes, or plasticity, in the strength of synaptic connections between neurons are vital for nervous system development and for the continuous refinement of the brain’s representations of its sensory environment throughout life; plasticity is thought to represent the single-neuron version of learning. Plasticity has been extensively characterized for chemical synapses, but the relationships between neuronal activity and the strength of electrical synapses have been, until now, almost entirely neglected. Because electrical synapses are widespread throughout the brain, it is critical to vastly expand our understanding of whether and how the strength of these synapses might be regulated in a use-dependent manner during natural activity. My research focuses on the basic mechanisms and causes of electrical synaptic plasticity, with an ultimate goal of understanding how this particular form of plasticity shapes brain function.”

Julie Miwa, Ph.D.
Julie Miwa, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Julie Miwa, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist who was most recently a senior research fellow at California Institute of Technology.  She received her undergraduate degree in Neurobiology from University of California at Berkeley and her Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in Neuroscience.  She did post-doctoral work at Rockfeller University and trained at Yale University in the Psychiatry Department.

“The brain’s ability to learn is much higher when we are young than when we are mature. What changes in our brain as we age to alter learning potential?” Julie discovered a gene, called lynx1, which is expressed during the time the brain transitions from youthful robust learning ability (we term “plasticity”), to the mature, stable adult form. Using genetic engineering to remove the lynx1 gene, she found that these mice learn better, and with colleagues found they have youthful plasticity beyond the normal time-frame.

Her work now focuses on understanding how the lynx1 gene suppresses learning potential on a cellular level, and seeks to control the activity of the lynx1 gene. This ability could be valuable in cases when calling forth such youthful plasticity could be beneficial, such as when we lose brain activity (e.g. stroke, traumatic brain injury), in cases of memory problems (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias), and neurodevelopmental disorders when correct circuit development in the brain was disrupted. Her work encompasses molecular biology and genetics, electron, light, and fluorescence microscopy, slice electrophysiology, and behavioral research. She focuses particularly on nicotine receptors of the cholinergic system and lynx modulators which govern their activity.

Dr. Miwa is interested in teaching neuroscience, molecular genetics in the brain and behavioral plasticity.
 
     

 

 

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2012 Newsletter designed by Maria Brace
Department of Biological Sciences
Lehigh University
©2012