Molecular neuroscience studies how molecules enable nerve cells to control their excitable behaviour, how they facilitate the reception and processing of incoming information from the surrounding environment, and how they then enable communication within single cells and also between networks of cells.
UCL researchers study both neurons and the surrounding glial cells by combining techniques from molecular and cell biology, electrophysiology, neurogenetics and imaging. Molecular neuroscience at UCL is housed mainly in the Medical Sciences building and in the new £9m Andrew Huxley building where internationally recognized research groups study how nerve cells send signals to one another. This includes, for example, how nerve cells are excited by cell surface receptors for glutamate and inhibited by receptors for GABA; how calcium channels control processes as diverse as muscle contraction and hormone secretion; and how numerous cell proteins interact to affect fast information processing in the brain and learning and memory.
Across UCL, research groups study how
receptors, ion channels and transporters are moved to the cell surface
and how long they reside there (trafficking); how specific isoforms of
receptors and channels are targeted to particular specializations on
the cell surface, such as synapses (targeting); and how different
pathways can affect their function (modulation).
questions is important not only for finding out how these proteins
function in healthy nervous systems, but also for deciding what has
gone wrong when there is faulty regulation. This can be caused by
genetic mutations that affect the function, trafficking or synthesis of
proteins, resulting in diseases such as epilepsy, Huntington’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, depression and anxiety.