Scharfman Lab

The main interests of the Scharfman laboratory are related to translational neuroscience. We are interested particularly in physiological approaches, because we believe that abnormal electrical activity contributes to neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Although many people associate abnormal brain activity with epilepsy, and this has been a long-standing interest of the laboratory, there are  many other diseases that we and others suspect are  caused or influenced by atypical brain activity.

The disease which we are studying the most in this respect is Alzheimer’s disease, but other conditions as diverse as migraine, and  schizophrenia are also likely to be relevant.

The Scharfman laboratory also is interested in the mechanisms underlying plasticity, such as the ability of the brain to make modifications to neuronal structure (axon sprouting or retraction, spine growth) and synaptic strength (long-term potentiation and depression).

We are therefore interested in a number of trophic or growth factors such as the neurotrophins (BDNF) and steroids (estrogen, androgen) which modulate plasticity.

The recognition that new neurons are generated throughout life (postnatal neurogenesis) have fostered our interest in adult neurogenesis also, especially in the dentate gyrus, where a number of normal functions appear to be controlled.

The diverse types of plasticity in the brain allow us to learn and form memories, respond to a changing environment, and recover from injury or illness.

In general, we hypothesize that neurological and psychiatric disease is in part due to abnormalities in plasticity, such as excessive responses to BDNF, which we think contributes to temporal lobe epilepsy, and aberrant neurogenesis, which we hypothesize is a reason for psychiatric illness.