Dr. Willam Blaker
Our lab investigates various functional aspects of the cholinergic septohippocampal pathway in the rat brain.
In both humans and animals, bilateral hippocampal dysfunction (for example caused by damage to the septohippcampal pathway) causes severe deficits in short-term memory formation, whereas unilateral lesions are without general permanent effects. We have been testing the hypothesis that if a sensory modality input is confined to a single hemisphere, then hippocampal lesions on that side will perturb the formation of memories based on that sensory modality. We have shown, in rats performing in a radial maze, that if visual input is confined to a single cerebral hemisphere, then hippocampal lesions on that side perturb the formation of spatial memories based on that input. Such studies involve animal behavior, experimental brain surgery, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and neurotransmitter receptor biochemistry.
A second line of research concerning the septohippocampal pathway of the rat has been the study of sprouting (i.e, growing new axonal branches) in this pathway after lesion of inputs to the hippocampus from another pathway, those from the entorhinal cortex. In particular, we have been studying which genes in those sprouting neurons show increased expression during the sprouting process. Such studies involve experimental brain surgery, neurohistology, and gene expressions analysis by RTPCR.