Elucidating new roles of myelin in plasticity, learning, and disease
Myelin is the electrical insulator that surrounds neuronal axons and is required for fast nerve impulses, and its loss in diseases like multiple sclerosis causes severe disability in patients. It was recently discovered that myelin changes dynamically in response to neuronal activity and powers a new form of learning, called "adaptive myelination," but the contribution of myelin to specific circuits or higher order brain functions remains unknown and unable to be tested with existing tools. In this proposal we aim to build first in class genetic tools for perturbing or enhancing myelination of specific, genetically defined neurons to determine how dynamic myelination contributes to brain function, and how changes in myelin may underlie neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease.
Arnold O. Beckman exemplifies the meaning of the word humanitarian. Combined with his unwavering enthusiasm for life, his keen sense of humor and his strong moral and ethical principles, he is a national icon.