Currently we are looking for a Postdoctoral Fellow – Brain Imaging in Freely Moving Animals (Microendoscopy)

To apply please contact Sylvia Fitting: sfitting@email.unc.edu

About Our Research Group

We are interested in sorting the underlying structural and functional consequences of behavior/neurocognition in disease. Our goal is to develop a better understanding of how cellular function is affected by drug abuse ± HIV/HIV-1 protein infection. Our research is focusing on the cellular, functional, and behavioral mechanisms of the neurotoxic consequences of drugs of abuse and HIV-1 Tat interactions on the central nervous system. 

We use state-of-the-art live cell imaging, electrophysiology, behavioral techniques: 

Live Cell Imaging In Vitro. To understand the differential responses to drugs of abuse, including opioids and cannabinoids, in the presence of HIV-1 proteins we make use of an in vitro cell culture model, focusing on striatal medium spiny neurons and prefrontal cortex neurons. Live cell imaging is conducted on the soma and dendrites of living cultured neurons using a Zeiss Axio Observer Z.1 inverted microscope (Carl Zeiss) with an automated, computer-controlled stage encoder with environmental control (37°C, 95% humidity, 5% CO2). We examine drug abuse/HIV-induced structural changes and functional changes in ion homeostasis, involving imaging [Na+]i and [Ca2+]i ions, mitochondrial membrane potential, and dendritic spines in living cultured neurons.

Electrophysiology In Vitro and Ex Vivo. To examine the effects of drug abuse in the context of HIV-1 on the electrical properties and synaptic function of striatal and/or prefrontal cortex neurons we perform whole cell-patch clamp recordings. Whole cell-patch clamp recordings are conducted in voltage- and current-clamp mode with conducting paired-pulse stimulation, dual whole cell patch recordings, and extracellular cell-attached recordings.

Behavioral Studies. To sort out the cellular sites of drug action that exacerbate the excitotoxic effects of HIV-1 proteins (HIV-1 Tat), we make use of transgenic, knockout, and floxed-engineered mice. We conduct behavioral tasks involving the striatum and prefrontal cortex, including locomotor activity task, delayed alteration task (working memory) and conditioning place preference/aversion (drug-associated memory).

 

 

Interested in working as an Undergraduate in our lab?

If you are an undergraduate, have a passion for science, and are specifically interested in our research let us know. Undergraduates may work in the lab as volunteers or, on a limited basis, as independent study students. We take new students in the fall, spring, and summer. If interested in a research position, please contact us at sfitting@email.unc.edu with a statement describing your interest in the lab and including a resume with your current GPA. 

Some Halloween 2016 pictures from our lab?