During my DPhil, I have studied the role of intrinsic axonal properties such as membrane excitability, dopamine transporter activity and calcium handling shape extrasynaptic dopamine signals in ex vivo striatal tissue.
Patterns of action potential firing in midbrain dopamine neurons encode important information about rewarding and/or salient events in the environment that underlie fundamental processes like action selection and associative learning. These patterns of activity have been intensively studied at the level of the cell body, in the dopaminergic midbrain nuclei.
However, neuronal signalling can also be influenced by properties of axons. Dopamine neurons have an extensive axonal arbor that projects throughout the striatum. Factors such as morphology and ion channel expression can modulate the rate and timing of action potentials during conduction, and consequently shape neurotransmitter release at synaptic terminals. It is not currently clear how such factors regulate the conversion of firing patterns in midbrain dopamine neurons to dopamine release in the striatum.
I started my DPhil in 2014, after completing a BSc in Pharmacology at Newcastle University, and an MSc in Neuroscience here in Oxford.