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PhD in NZ

Previous research

Before starting my brain imaging research at Princeton University, I worked in New Zealand, primarily with whole-cell patch clamping in brain slices. Here is a summary of my most important research from that period of time. Please see the Publications page for references. 

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Anticonvulsant effects of antidepressants

My PhD work at Otago University (Dunedin, New Zealand) showed that several antidepressants in the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class (such as Prozac) have properties that resemble those of some antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). I found that SSRIs blocked epileptic activity through modulation of sodium and potassium currents (common targets of AEDs) whereas their serotonergic actions were not involved. Through a detailed analysis of available preclinical data on the effects of SSRIs on seizures, I suggested that SSRIs may worsen some types of seizures and protect against others. 

A treatment system for epilepsy

Together with Prof. John Reynolds and his team at the Department of Anatomy and Brain Health Research Centre at the University of Otago, New Zealand, I participated in the development of a new epilepsy treatment system. I designed, fabricated and tested a new brain slice chamber that allowed application of this technology during visualized patch clamp recording.  

The neural basis of reward learning

As an undergraduate student in the Department of Physiology at the University of Otago, I worked with Prof. Brian Hyland and Prof. Allan Herbison, to investigate reward learning pathways in the brain using cFos immunohistochemistry and behavioral training. A few years later, I followed up on this interest in Prof. Ilana Witten's lab at Princeton, using optogenetics to study the role of thalamostriatal inputs in reward-related behaviors.