HOW THE NERVOUS SYSTEM WORKS
Jorge Golowasch, PhD, associate professor of mathematical sciences and biology, studies neural plasticity, the property that allows neurons to change or reform. While this flexibility carries the potential for instability, neurons and neural networks can be observed to maintain remarkably stable properties. Dr. Golowasch's team studies the mechanisms that enable neurons to recover from disruptions due to growth, learning and injury. His research -- supported by grants from the NIH, the NSF and the Whitaker Foundation -- attempts to answer the question of how the nervous system can remain flexible while at the same time stable.
To answer these questions, the team studies the simple neural networks found in the digestive system of crustaceans. Using cell biology, electrophysiology and computational tools, Dr. Golowasch studies mechanisms of plasticity -- flexibility -- and homeostasis -- stability -- in the ionic currents that determine the electrical activity of neurons and neural networks within the model system. Read a paper on the team's findings.
Golowasch, along with Associate Professors Farzan Nadim and Amitabha Bose, are also part of a multi-institutional team funded by the NSF to construct a computational model of the pyloric neural network, which generates rhythmic activity in the gut of crustaceans. The NJIT team will combine the research from eight laboratories to produce a comprehensive model of the system.