The brainstem neurons control several aspects of behavior and may play important roles in psychiatric disease. We are interested in the gene regulatory mechanisms controlling differentiation and identity of these neurons.
We have studied how the diversity of GABAergic neurons arises in the anterior brainstem and how the selection between the inhibitory GABAergic neuron and the excitatory glutamatergic neuron lineages is controlled in the ventral embryonic hindbrain housing the early precursors of these neurons. Many of the GABAergic and glutamatergic neuron subtypes associate with, and regulate the monoaminergic circuits in the anterior brainstem.
We have also shown how related gene regulatory mechanisms regulate development of neuronal subtypes in the dorsal raphe, a serotonergic center in the brain.