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Drosophila sensory neurons tile the larval body wall, Dr. Chun Han

Faculty

Office: 
Campus Address: GH, N-412C Box: 2240
Phone: 
(415) 514-4102

Kaveh Ashrafi

Metabolic Regulation of Neural Function

Our lab’s research program is at the intersection of metabolism, neural functions including learning and memory, and aging.

In animals, metabolic regulation is an organism-wide process that involves a variety of cellular energy sensory mechanisms, communication between tissues, and central, neural regulatory processes.  Not surprisingly, metabolic disturbances are being increasingly recognized as tightly intertwined with a variety of pathological conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer and neurodegeneration. My laboratory has helped pioneer the use of C. elegans as a simplified and genetically tractable platform for identifying the molecular components of and disentangling the logic of complex homeostatic networks that underlie energy balance.  In our research we take advantage of molecular genetics, biochemistry, chemical biology, and imaging approaches.  Through collaborative efforts, we have incorporated areas as diverse as chemical biology and murine behavioral studies to complement and extend our C. elegans work.

Along the way, we have discovered a metabolic pathway that directly links an organism’s energy status to neural mechanisms of learning and memory.  We have shown that this mechanism accounts for a significant portion of age-associated declines in learning and memory and that modulation of this pathway allows for improved learning and memory in aged animals.  Ongoing projects in the lab include: 1) metabolic regulation of neural plasticity as related to learning and memory, 2) use of C. elegans to understand how an animal’s nervous system integrates internal and external cues to elicit behaviors, 3) the role of environmentally pervasive pollutants as obesogens, and 4) identification and analysis of small molecules that alter metabolism.