The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences student Rajan Dasgupta recently had a first-author paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Dasgupta is affiliated with the Program in Neuroscience and his advisor is Michael Beierlein, Ph.D.
“As a newcomer to the field, it is very encouraging to have your work recognized, and publishing in The Journal of Neuroscience is a great way to do that,” said Dasgupta. “All in all, I feel energized to pursue my research further and look forward also to the next stage of my career.”
In his work, Dasgupta deals with the function of circuits of extensively interconnected neurons in the neocortex, which enable us to think, feel, remember, and perceive. One of the remarkable properties of cortical circuits is their ability to seamlessly combine information from various diverse brain regions and produce appropriate behavioral outcomes on very fast timescales. To accomplish this task, the circuits must rapidly change their computational properties depending on the behavioral state of the animal. For instance, during periods of attentiveness, activity in the cortex becomes largely non-rhythmic, thereby improving the animal’s ability to detect stimuli and parse out details in the sensory world. Also during attentiveness, neurons in the basal forebrain communicate with cortical circuits using the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a part of cholinergic transmission.
Working in Beierlein’s lab, Dasgupta and his fellow labmates have found that this type of transmission plays a critical role in switching the properties of cortical circuits between distinct modes. These findings provide important clues to the underlying mechanisms of cholinergic action and may help identify novel therapies for neurological disorders in which cholinergic function is compromised.
“This is a great accomplishment for Rajan. He is my first graduate student, so it’s nice to see his findings published in a high-impact journal, thereby setting the bar for future students in my lab,” said Beierlein.
Dasgupta is also a Zilkha Family Discovery Fellow in Neuroengineering. This award is given to Graduate School students whose research is innovative in specifically selected, rapidly emerging fields of research.
“The Zilkha Family Fellowship has aided me not only in reaching my research goals but also in advancing my career as a scientist generally,” said Dasgupta. “The additional funds provided by the Zilkha Fellowship allowed my lab and I to purchase resources needed to address important questions relevant to our research; to travel to and participate in various neuroscience conferences; and has also served as a significant boost to my overall academic profile. For these reasons, I am extremely grateful to have been the recipient of the Zilkha Family Discovery Fellowship from 2015-2016.”
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