Research plans

Samuel M. Young, Jr. PhD

The laboratory research focus is in two distinct areas.

Molecular Principles of Auditory Information Processing

Fundamental to hearing and critical to survival and communication is the ability to accurately identify and interpret sound information received by the ears). To transform sound information into a neural code, synaptic connections in auditory brainstem neurons reliably and accurately transmit signals between neurons at submillisecond timescales. How the molecular machinery in auditory brainstem synapses enables these neurons to perform computations at some of the fastest speeds in the central nervous system remains a mystery. Our major research goal is to define the molecular principles underlying accurate sound information processing and explore how dysregulation contributes to hearing impairments that impact the quality of life.

Gene Therapy for Neurological Disorders

The global burdens of neurological disorders on personal and family suffering, health care and society are enormous and will continue to rapidly grow as the global population ages. Based on numerous gene discovery studies, it is emerging that the underlying causes of neurological disorders are due to genetic mutations that result in dysregulation of the molecular signaling cascades that lead to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration. While our identification of the genes and signaling cascades in neurons has grown at an explosive pace, our understanding of their mechanisms of action, impact on neuronal circuit function, organism behavior and the translation of this knowledge into effective treatments lags far behind. Furthermore, while the causative mutations of many inherited neurodegenerative disorders are known, therapies that treat the root cause of the disease and restore normal function are extremely rare. Therefore, one of our major goals is to develop novel gene therapy approaches to overcome lack of treatment strategies and improve the quality of life of individuals who suffer from neurological disorders.