neuro
benson lab
Cellular Mechanisms of Circuit Formation, Activity, & Behavior
Deanna Besnon

Our work is focused on the mechanisms required to generate normal functioning neural circuits. A variety of serious neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases have as their root cause defects in neural connectivity, but our understanding of circuit development is too primitive to pinpoint the relevant changes that contribute to disease symptoms. As a bridge between genes and behavior we study the development and function of neural circuits in mice having mutations in genes that have been implicated in human disease.

Deanna Benson, PhD
Professor Neuroscience
MSSM Profile Page
Email: deanna.benson@mssm.edu
 Bridget Matikainen-Ankney

In a collaborative project with George Huntley's lab and Eli Lilly, Bridget is assessing the effects of mutations in the gene encoding LRRK2 on the development and function of synapses in spiny projection neurons of the dorsal striatum. Mutations in LRRK2 are suspected to be the leading cause of inherited forms of Parkinson's disease and Bridget's work indicates that neurons in mice carrying the most common mutation observed in humans show greatly increased activity and alterations in synapse morphology. Bridget is the recipient of an NRSA and was also part of a team that invented a microfluidic device that took home second place at Columbia Engineering's Annual Venture Competition.

Bridget Matikainen-Ankney
Graduate Student
Email: bridget.matikainen@mssm.edu
Roxana Mesias

Roxana is a graduate student with George Huntley who is working on a collaborative project studying how cadherins regulate the development of cortical striatal connectivity. She has been using in utero-electroporation and AAV mediated gene expression in mutant mice and examining changes in neural activity using whole cell recording techniques and neuron morphology using confocal microscopy. Roxi is also a Posse Foundation alumna and an active leader in the Posse community.


Roxana Mesias
Graduate Student
Email: roxana.mesias@icahn.mssm.edu
Chenel Morrison

Chenel is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and a recipient of a Research Award from NIMH. She is studying the synaptic function of Cyfip1, a protein that can suppress protein translation and promote actin polymerization. Gene copy number variations in CYFIP1 appear to greatly exacerbate several human conditions ranging from autism spectrum disorders to schizophrenia. Our work on Cyfip1 is a collaborative effort with Ozlem Bozdagi's lab at Rutgers.

Chenel Morrison
Undergraduate
Nebojsa Kezunovic

Neso is a postdoctoral fellow and outstanding electrophysiologist in George Huntley's laboratory. He is working with our lab on two projects focused on striatal circuit development and is an American Parkinson's Disease Foundation Fellow.

Nebojsa Kezunovic
Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: nebojsa.kezunovic@mssm.edu