Lavin Laboratory

Dr. Lavin’s research laboratory explores the synaptic and cellular mechanisms that underlie functioning of the prefrontal cortex and seeks to understand the changes occurring in these mechanisms under pathological conditions, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and drug addiction. The lab utilizes different experimental approaches to gain a better understanding about the underlying regulation, or dysregulation, of healthy brain function, and take an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to address these important topics for human mental health.

One of our ongoing projects focuses on investigating the mechanisms underlying hypofrontality, a common biological marker of neuropsychiatric disorders that correlates with cognitive and executive function deficits, and it is often defined as a pathological state of frontal cortex produced, at least in part, by disruption of the normal balance of local excitatory and inhibitory (E-I) synaptic transmission. We use a powerful combination of state-of-the-art techniques such as whole-cell clamp electrophysiology, behavioral assessments and molecular biology to investigate how methamphetamine abuse affects the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in the prefrontal cortex of rats. 

In a separate but related project, we are investigating the role of immediate early genes (IEG), specifically NPAS4, in the excitatory and inhibitory changes elicited by methamphetamine abuse in the prefrontal cortex of rats.

Another of the lab interest center in the role of perineruonal nets.  Perineuronal nets (PNN) are composed of extracellular matrix glycoproteins, and have emerged as important regulators of synaptic plasticity in the developing and mature brain. PNN formation around parvalbumin-positive fast spiking interneurons (PV+FSI) tends to increase PV+FSI activity, which enhances GABAergic inhibition in neuronal networks and suggests the potential involvement of PNN in hypofrontality.  We are investigating how methamphetamine abuse affects the PNNs, resulting in change sin inhibitory activity in the prefrontal cortex