Genes, Development And Behavior
Department of Translational Neuroscience
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Student Projects

Molecular biology of axon growth

Aim: identify the molecules that control axon growth
Experimental work: microarray & microRNA array analysis, quantitative PCR, gene cloning, cell biology, gene transfer, neuron culture, microscopy
Contact: Jeroen Pasterkamp

Development of striatal and dopaminergic pathways

Aim: understand how mesostriatal circuits are wired
Experimental work: in situ hybridization, neuroanatomy, immunocytochemistry, FACS and microarray analysis, cell and explant culture, in utero electroporation, genetic mouse models, microscopy
Contact: Jeroen Pasterkamp

Identification of receptor and intracellular signalling proteins involved in axon guidance

Aim: determine how neurons sense and respond to axon growth and guidance cues
Experimental work: proteomics, biochemistry, cell biology, in situ hybridization, neuroanatomy, immunocytochemistry, genetic mouse models, microscopy
Contact: Jeroen Pasterkamp

The molecular basis of ALS

Aim: characterize recently identified ALS susceptibility genes (in collaboration with Department of Neurology, UMC Utrecht)
Experimental work: cell biology, in situ hybridization, neuroanatomy, immunocytochemistry, genetic mouse models, microscopy.
Contact: Jeroen Pasterkamp

Role of genes in energy balance and feeding behavior

Aim: determine the role of genes in the brain by studying gene expression and local knockdown of genes by RNAi
Experimental work: injection of AAV in rat brain, behavioural analysis, neuroanatomy

Contact: Roger Adan

Unravelling mechanisms of overconsumption

Aim: determine the neural substrate that underlies overconsumption
Experimental work: behavioural analysis, neuroanatomical techniques (in situ hybridisation etc)

Contact: Roger Adan

G-protein coupled receptors and synaptic integration in the ventral tegmental area

Aim: determine how GPCRs regulate excitatory and inhibitory input to dopamine neurons in the VTA.
Experimental work: whole-cell patch clamp recordings, pharmacology, immunohistochemistry

Contact: Geert M.J. Ramakers

The role of axon guidance molecules in acticity-dependent synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus

Aim: determine if and how axon guidance molecules regulate LTP and LTD in the CA1 field of the hippocampus.
Experimental work: field potential recordings, pharmacology

Contact: Geert M.J. Ramakers

The role of G-protein coupled receptors in cellular and synaptic plasticity in the striatum

Aim: determine how GPCRs regulate cellular excitability and excitatory and inhibitory input to medium spiny neurons in the striatum.
Experimental work: whole-cell patch clamp recordings, pharmacology, immunohistochemistry

Contact: Geert M.J. Ramakers

Measuring dopamine overflow in the striatum using fast scan cyclic voltammetry

Aim: quantify stimulus-induced dopamine overflow in the striatum and determine the effect of repeated drug exposure on stimulus-induced dopamine overflow.
Experimental work: fast scan cyclic voltammetry, pharmacology

Contact: Geert M.J. Ramakers

Striatal substrates of cocaine addiction

Aim: determine how alterations in dopamine and glutamate neurotransmission in the rat striatum underlie the progression of cocaine use to cocaine addiction.
Experimental work: drug self-administration, stereotaxic surgery, behavioral pharmacology

Contact: Louk Vanderschuren

The neurobiology of social motivation and reward

Aim: determine which neural systems are involved in the motivational and rewarding properties of social play behavior in adolescent rats.
Experimental work: place conditioning, runway conditioning, visual analysis of behavior, behavioral pharmacology

Contact: Louk Vanderschuren

The genetic basis of alcohol abuse

Aim: determine which genes are responsible for the escalation of alcohol intake in mice.
Experimental work: drug self-administration, PCR, in situ hydridisation

Contact: Louk Vanderschuren

Functional Characterization of a Bacterial Cyclic Nucleotide Regulated K+-channel

Cyclic nucleotides (cNMPs) are important secondary messenger molecules that mediate a multitude of processes by activating several different proteins in the signalling cascade. One such family of proteins relates to ion channels. Upon binding cNMPs the channels open, which results in change in membrane potential of cells. Channels regulated by cNMPs have been extensively characterized in sensory systems like rod- and cone-photoreceptors, and excitatory cells in heart and brain, but the molecular mechanism of activation remains poorly understood. The aim of the current project is to comprehend the effects of ligand binding on channel opening.

The project involves functionally characterizing a bacterial homolog (mlCNG) of cNMP regulated channel by electrophysiological methods. The mlCNG channel serves as a useful model system, as structural reference data is available on the domains of the channel separately. Furthermore, the channel protein has also been studied with respect to ligand binding, but the activation profile by electrophysiological measurements is lacking. Electrophysiological measurements will be performed on the mlCNG channel by patch-clamp techniques on giant bacterial sphaeroplasts and liposomes.

This project will be undertaken as collaborative effort between Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology (G.M.J. Ramakers) and the NMR Spectroscopy Research Group (M. Baldus), Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research at the University of Utrecht.

Contact: Dr. G.M.J. Ramakers (g.m.j.ramakers@umcutrecht.nl), Prof. Dr. M. Baldus (m.baldus@uu.nl; http://www.nmr.chem.uu.nl) or Dr . A. A. Cukkemane (a.a.cukkemane@uu.nl; http://www.nmr.chem.uu.nl).

The importance of stress hormone pulsatility for keeping the brain responsive to stress.

Objective: The importance of stress hormone pulsatility for keeping the brain responsive to stress.
Techniques: field potential recordings in slice preparations from rodent brain
Contact: Henk Karst

The influence of early life environment on behavioral function in adulthood

Objective: The influence of early life environment on behavioral function in adulthood.
Techniques: behavioral observations, neuropharmacology

Contact: Henk Karst

In vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics to study food choice

Aim: apply in vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics to relate neuronal firing to feeding
Experimental work: viral vector technology, behavior, electrophysiology, optogenetics


Contact: Roger Adan

Neural mechanisms underlying anorectic behaviors

Aim: to understand which neural circuits and signaling pathways underly the loss of appetite
Experimental work: behavioral analysis, viral vector technology, neuroanatomy

Contact: Roger Adan

Optogenetics and DREADD technology to understand neural circuits of feeding behavior

Aim: determine the role of specific neural circuits in feeding
Experimental work: optogenetics, DREADD pharmacology, molecular biology

Contact: Roger Adan

Food reward and the role of dopamine in feeding

Aim: to delineate whether palatable food is addictive and determine neural circuits related to this
Experimental work: behavioral analysis, viral vector technology, neuroanatomy

Contact: Roger Adan

Biochemical and cell biological properties of Contactin-6

Aim: determine mechanisms of Cntn6 involvement in brain development.

Experimental work: neuronal culturing, cell culturing, immunocytochemistry, DNA cloning, PCR, microscopy, work with knock-out mice.

Contact: Peter Burbach, Amila Zuko

Role of Contactin-5 in the thalamocortical system

Aim: determine the effect of loss-of-function of Cntn5 on the development of the thalamocortical system

Experimental work: immunocytochemistry, confocal microscopy, cell transfection, neuranatomy, brain development, work with knock-out mice, neuronal culturing.

Contact: Peter Burbach, Kristel Kleijer

Consequence of selective loss of Pten in neuronal systems.

Aim: determine the effect of loss-of-function of Pten on the development of the thalamocortical and dopaminergic systems

Experimental work: creating conditional mutant mice, immunocytochemistry, neuranatomy, brain development, work with knock-out mice, neuronal culturing

Contact: Peter Burbach

Neural circuit plasticity in reward circuits

Aim: Determine synaptic plasticity in reward circuits as a consequence of salient events
Experimental work: patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics

Contact: f.j.meye-2@umcutrecht.nl

Neural circuit functionality during reward seeking behavior

Aim: Determine activity of neuronal populations within neural circuits during reward seeking behavior Experimental work: fiber photometry, chemogenetics
Contact: f.j.meye-2@umcutrecht.nl

Functional mapping of neural circuit connectivity

Aim: Unravel the identity of specific pathways in the brain involved in the encoding of rewarding and aversive information
Experimental work: patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, neural tracing tools, microscopy

Contact: f.j.meye-2@umcutrecht.nl