Brain and Cognitive Science, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience
Washington University in St. Louis
Neuronal outgrowth, regeneration, synapse formation and plasticity are pivotal not only for normal brain development and function, but also for brain repair after injury or degeneration. The primary research in Xu’s laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms that control synapse formation and transmission, and how environmental factors may impact molecules and cellular events that are involved in normal brain development and function.
Xu’s lab conducts research using both the mollusk Lymnaea stagnalis model and rat (cortical and hippocampal) cell culture in conjunction with state-of-the-art electrophysiological, calcium imaging, confocal microscopy and molecular biological techniques. The long-term objective of her research is to identify critical genes or proteins that are involved in neuronal outgrowth, regeneration, synaptogenesis, and plasticity. The identified genes or proteins will then be manipulated experimentally to deduce their physiological significance in brain development and animal behaviors. The knowledge gained from these studies will help efforts in repairing brain damage after stroke, injury and in treating neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.