Anatomical and Molecular Bases of Hearing

To know how the brain works we have to consider a whole anatomical and molecular networks between and among its major constituents (neurons and glial cells). The nervous information can be transmitted thanks to the release of neurotransmitters that activate the corresponding receptors located at the appropriate synapse. Thus, to understand brain function and how it is regulated we need to elucidate if and how receptors are localized specifically in a cell. The mechanisms involved in the appropriate transport (targeting) of proteins in neurons are multiple, complex and are so far unclear. Less is known about receptor targeting in glial cells. Dr. Rubio’s laboratory is interested in analyzing these processes to understand the biology of neuron-glia interaction during normal and abnormal brain function.

The laboratory has the long-term-goal to investigate changes in receptor expression in response to experience. Because it is known that the composition of postsynaptic receptors affects the electrophysiological properties of neurons, it becomes important to analyze the changes in expression patterns when a particular source of activation is missing or somehow affected. In this context, we study the effects of an 8th nerve lesion and attenuation of sound on neurons and glial cells (astrocytes) of the cochlear nucleus complex. This is relevant for basic neuroscience, but this area of interest could have a strong clinical implication. Any information that might lead to new strategies of hearing loss treatment or the development of novel drugs would be valuable.