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Faculty in the Program in Sensory and Systems Neuroscience

click a faculty member's name to learn more about each research program

Peter Brunjes, PhD--Development and plasticity of olfactory receptors and bulb.

Alev Erisir, MD, PhD--Development and plasticity in visual cortex.

David Hill, PhD--Physiology, development and plasticity of the taste pathways.

Kurt Illig, PhD--Sensory coding, learning and plasticity in higher-order cortical areas.

Cedric Williams, PhD--Neurobiology of memory and the role of emotional arousal in learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter C. Brunjes, PhD 

Commonwealth Professor of Psychology

Ph.D., Indiana University, 1979; Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Illinois 

brunjes@virginia.edu  Homepage

We are primarily involved in exploring the development of the central nervous system. Current research falls into several categories. In one we are examining the role that function plays in guiding proper brain maturation. In a second we are examining growth in diverse species in order to understand general properties of early neural development and brain organization.

Recent publications:

Meyer, E.A., Illig, K.R. and Brunjes, P.C. (2006) Differences in chemo- and cytoarchitectural features within pars principalis of the rat anterior olfactory nucleus suggest functional specialization. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 498: 786-795.

Brunjes PC, Illig KR and Meyer EA (2005) A field guide to the anterior olfactory nucleus (cortex). Brain Research Reviews, 50:305-335.

Mirich, JM, Illig, KR and Brunjes, PC (2004) Experience-dependent activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) in the olfactory bulb. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 479: 234-241.

Byrd CA, Brunjes PC (2001) Neurogenesis in the olfactory bulb of adult zebrafish.
Neuroscience 105(4):793-801.

Fiske BK, Brunjes PC (2001) NMDA receptor regulation of cell death in the rat olfactory bulb.
Journal of Neurobiology 47(3):223-32.

Mirich JM, Brunjes PC. (2001) Activity modulates neuronal proliferation in the developing olfactory epithelium. Brain Research: Developmental Brain Research 127(1):77-80.

Fiske BK, Brunjes PC. (2001) Cell death in the developing and sensory-deprived rat olfactory bulb.
The Journal of Comparative Neurology 431(3):311-9.

Couper Leo J M, Devine AM, Brunjes PC  (2000) Focal denervation alters cellular phenotypes and survival in the developing rat olfactory bulb. The Journal of Comparative Neurology. 417:325-336.

Wilson DA, Best AR, and Brunjes PC (2000) Trans-neuronal modification of anterior piriform cortical circuitry in the rat. Brain Research 853:317-322.

Poling, KR Brunjes, PC (2000) Sensory deafferentation and olfactory bulb morphology  in the zebrafish and related species. Brain Research 21:135-141.

Fiske, BK Brunjes, PC (2000) Microglia activation and the developing rat olfactory bulb. Neuroscience 96:807-815

 

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Alev Erisir, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology

MD Istanbul University 1986; Ph.D. SUNY at Stony Brook 1996; Postdoctoral Fellowship, New York University, New York Medical College

erisir@virginia.edu  Homepage

My primary interest is the development and the plasticity of visual system. Our experiments are concentrated on an early neonatal period in life, when the brain maintains a remarkable malleability to changes in the environment, such as lack of light or unbalanced stimulation through both eyes. By studying the molecules that are in function during this period, we aim to understand plasticity, that is what allows the brain to change, adapt, learn or resist to change in response to alterations in our environment. We use tract-tracing and immunocytochemisty techniques to examine temporal sequence of neurotransmitter receptor localization in the thalamocortical recipient cortex layers, at light and electron microscope resolutions.

Recent Publications:

Erisir A, Levey AI, Aoki C. Muscarinic receptor M(2) in cat visual cortex: laminar distribution, relationship to gamma-aminobutyric acidergic neurons, and effect of cingulate lesions.  J Comp Neurol. 2001 Dec 10;441(2):168-85.

Wang S, Bickford ME, Van Horn SC, Erisir A, Godwin DW, Sherman SM.  Synaptic targets of thalamic reticular nucleus terminals in the visual thalamus of the cat.  J Comp Neurol. 2001 Nov 26;440(4):321-41.

Bickford ME, Ramcharan E, Godwin DW, Erisir A, Gnadt J and Sherman SM. 2000.  Neurotransmitters Contained in the Subcortical Extraretinal Inputs to the Monkey Lateral Geniculate Nucleus. J Comparative Neurology 424:704-717.

VanHorn S, Erisir A, Sherman SM 2000.  The relative distribution of synapses in the A-laminae of the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. J Comparative Neurology 416:509-520.

Erisir A, D Lau, B Rudy and C S Leonard. 1999. Specific K+ channels are required to sustain high frequency firing in fast-spiking neocortical interneurons.  J. Neurophysiology 82:2476-2489.

Chow A, Erisir A, Farb C, Nadal MS, Ozaita A, Lau D Welker E and Rudy B. 1999. Kv3.1 and Kv3.2 proteins distinguish three subpopulations of GABAergic interneurons in the mouse cortex.  J Neuroscience 19(21):9932-9345.

Erisir A and Aoki C. 1998. A method of combining biocytin tract-tracing with avidin-biotin-peroxidase complex immunocytochemistry.  J Neuroscience Methods.  18:189-197.

Erisir A, Van Horn S C, and Sherman S M. 1998. Distribution of synapses in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat: differences between laminae A and A1and between relay cells and interneurons.  J Comparative Neurology, 390:24-255.

Erisir A, Van Horn S C, and Sherman S M. 1997 Relative numbers of cortical and brainstem inputs to the LGN. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.U.S.A. 94(4):1517-1520.

Erisir A, Van Horn S C, Bickford M E and Sherman S M,  1997. Immunocytochemistry and distribution of parabrachial terminals in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat; A comparison with corticogeniculate terminals. J.Comp.Neurol. 377(4):535-549.

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David L. Hill, PhD

Professor of Psychology

 Ph.D., Ohio University, 1979; Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Michigan

 dh2t@virginia.edu  Homepage

Research focuses on the neurophysiological and behavioral development of the sense of taste. Current studies examine maturational events specific to peripheral receptor cells and central nervous system neurons, the effects of early taste experience on neurophysiological and behavioral responses and the interactions among visceral and gustatory afferent discharges in the developing brainstem.

Recent publications:

Sollars, SI and Hill, DL (2005) In vivo recordings from rat geniculate ganglia: taste response properties of individual greater superficial petrosal and chorda tympani neurones. Journal of Physiology 564:877-893.

Farbman AI, Guagliardo N, Sollars SI and Hill DL (2004) Each sensory nerve arising from the geniculate ganglion expresses a unique fingerprint of neurotrophin and neurotrophin receptor genes. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 78:659-667.

Shuler MG, Krimm RF and Hill, DL (2004) Neuron/target plasticity in the peripheral gustatory system. The Journal of Comparative Neurology 472:183-192.

Sollars SI, Smith PC and Hill DL (2002)  Time course of morphological alterations of fungiform papillae and taste buds following chorda tympani transection in neonatal rats. Journal of Neurobiology 51:223-236.

Hendricks SJ, Sollars SI and Hill DL. (2002) Injury-induced functional plasticity in the peripheral gustatory system. The Journal of Neuroscience 22:8607-8613

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Kurt R. Illig, PhD

Research Assistant Professor of Psychology

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997; Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Wisconsin Medical School

krillig@virginia.edu  Homepage

My over-arching research interest is in cortical structures, particularly how plasticity at various stages of development shapes the function of these structures (development of networks, changes in these networks with learning, compensation following injury). To gain insight into these issues, I explore how sensory systems code information about the world and how the codes change with various experiences. My current research focuses on understanding how odors are encoded in olfactory cortical structures: how the olfactory code emerges in development, and how it changes with learning. I employ methods such as in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry, single-unit physiology, and behavioral tasks. My long-term goal is to incorporate what we learn about olfactory cortex into a general portrait of the role of cortical function and plasticity in sensory processing.
 

Illig, K.R. (2007) Developmental changes in odor-evoked activity in rat piriform cortex. Neuroscience, in press.

Meyer, E.A., Illig, K.R. and Brunjes, P.C. (2006) Differences in chemo- and cytoarchitectural features within pars principalis of the rat anterior olfactory nucleus suggest functional specialization. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 498: 786-795.

Illig, KR (2005). Projections from orbitofrontal cortex to piriform cortex in the rat suggest a modulatory role in olfactory information processing. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 488: 224-231.

Brunjes PC, Illig KR and Meyer EA (2005) A field guide to the anterior olfactory nucleus (cortex). Brain Research Reviews, 50:305-335.

Mirich, JM, Illig, KR and Brunjes, PC (2004) Experience-dependent activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) in the olfactory bulb. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 479: 234-241.

Illig, KR and Haberly, LB (2003). Odor-evoked activity is spatially distributed in piriform cortex. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 457: 361-373

Ekstrand, JJ, Domroese, ME, Feig, SL, Illig, KR and Haberly, LB (2001) Immunocytochemical analysis of basket cells in rat piriform cortex. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 434: 308-328.

Johnson, DMG, Illig, KR, Behan, M and Haberly, LB (2000) New features of connectivity in piriform cortex visualized by intracellular injection of pyramidal cells suggest that “primary” olfactory cortex functions like “association” cortex in other sensory systems. The Journal of Neuroscience, 20: 6974-6982.

Illig, KR, Danilov, YP, Ahmad, A, Kim, CBY and Spear, PD (2000) Functional plasticity in extrastriate visual cortex following neonatal visual cortex damage and monocular enucleation. Brain Research, 882: 241-250.

Illig, KR, King, VR and Spear, PD (1998) Monocular enucleation prevents retinal ganglion cell loss following early visual cortex lesions in cats. Visual Neuroscience 15: 1097-1105.

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Cedric L. Williams, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology.

Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, 1991; Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California at Irvine 

clw3b@virginia.edu  Homepage

Primary research interests in the neurobiological basis of memory. Currently examining the relationship between emotionally arousing events and their capacity to modulate brain systems that encode experiences into memory. Other research interests include understanding the role of brainstem nuclei in receiving inputs regarding changes in peripheral autonomic and neuroendocrine states and conveying this information to limbic system structures that regulate memory formation.

Recent publications:

Miyashita, T. and Williams, C. L. (2002). Glutamatergic transmission in the nucleus of the solitary tract modulates memory through influences on amygdala noradrenergic systems. Behavioral Neuroscience, 116, 13-21

Clayton, E. C. and Williams, C. L. (2000). Noradrenergic receptor blockade of the NTS attenuates the mnemonic effects of epinephrine in an appetitive light-dark discrimination learning task. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 74, 135-145.


Clayton, E. C. and Williams, C. L. (2000). Glutamatergic Influences on the Nucleus Paragigantocellularis: Contribution to Performance in Avoidance and Spatial Memory Tasks. Behavioral Neuroscience, 114, 707-712.

Williams, C. L., Men, D., and Clayton, E. C. (2000). The effects of noradrenergic activation of the nucleus tractus solitarius on memory and in potentiating norepinephrine release in the amygdala. Behavioral Neuroscience, 114, 1131-1144. 
 

Clayton, E. C. and Williams, C. L. (2000). Adrenergic activation of the nucleus tractus solitarius potentiates amygdala norepinephrine release and enhances retention performance in emotionally-arousing and spatial memory tasks. Behavioural Brain Research, 112, 151-158.

Roozendaal, B., Williams, C. L., and McGaugh, J. L. (1999). Glucocorticoid receptor activation in the rat nucleus of the solitary tract facilitates memory consolidation: Involvement of the basolateral amygdala. European Journal of Neuroscience, 11, 1317-1323.

Clayton, E. C. and Williams, C. L. (2000). Posttraining inactivation of excitatory afferent input to the locus coeruleus impairs retention in an inhibitory avoidance learning task. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 73, 127-140.

Williams, C. L., Men, D., Clayton, E. C., and Gold, P. E. (1998). Norepinephrine release in the amygdala following systemic injection of epinephrine or escapable footshock: contribution of the nucleus of the solitary tract. Behavioral Neuroscience, 112, 1414-1422.
 

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