Gordon M Shepherd, MD, DPhil

Professor of Neuroscience

Research Interests

Anatomy; Dendrites; Information Science; Interneurons; Nervous System; Neurons; Synapses; Pyramidal Cells; Dendritic Spines; Organisms; Phenomena and Processes

Research Organizations

Faculty Research

Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

Office of Cooperative Research

Research Summary

The main research interest of this laboratory is in the neuron as a complex system and in the synaptic organization of neurons into microcircuits in the brain. We focus on the ways that information processing by the neuron takes place through an interplay of the geometry of dendritic branching, the mechanisms of transduction of synaptic or sensory signals, and contributions of passive and active membrane properties.

Specialized Terms: Neuronal Dendrites; Dendritic Spines; Synaptic Organization; Olfactory System; Brain Microcircuits; Computational Neuroscience; Neuroinformatics; Functional Connectomes

Extensive Research Description

We use mammalian olfaction as a model system because it has several

distinct advantages: the olfactory bulb (OB) receives direct sensory input from

olfactory receptors, but is only one synapse from the cortical level of perception;

the OB has distinct laminae and cell types which facilitates functional analysis;

the OB projects to olfactory cortex (OC), with only a three-layered cortical

organization rather than the six layers found in neocortex, which simplifies

analysis of activity and connectivitypatterns; and the OB is located on the dorsal

surface, which allows access for in vivo imaging and manipulations.

With these advantages we have identified key steps along the way to

smell perception. Odor molecules first bind differentially to the olfactory

receptors. Activity markers 2-deoxyglucose and fMRI show that the receptor

responses are represented by activity patterns in the olfactory glomeruli.

These patterns are processed by feedback and lateral inhibition in microcircuits

between mitral and granule cells. The resulting output goes to the three layer

olfactory cortex, which we have postulated has a functional

organization involving feedback inhibition and excitation. We postulate

that this was elaborated in evolution to form six layer neocortex.

Our laboratory contains a computational unit, carrying forward early

experiments with Wilfrid Rall, the founder of computational neuroscience and

the theoretical foundations of dendritic function. We apply these principles

in parallel with experiments to explore mechanisms of information processing

in dendritic spines, dendritic trees and cortical microcircuits.

We were among the originators of neuroinformatics, developing the

SenseLab Project for the construction of databases for ion currents, receptors,

and neurotransmitters in different neuron types, to facilitate the integration of

these multidisciplinary data into a new generation of scaled up realistic

3-dimensional computational models of neurons and neuronal systems. Among

them is ModelDB, a widely-used curated archive of membrane, neuron

and microcircuit models, to enhance the interplay of experiment and modeling

for better insight into the cellular basis of brain function.

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Selected Publications

Full List of PubMed Publications

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Contact Info

Gordon M Shepherd, MD, DPhil
Office Location
Farnam Memorial Building
310 Cedar Street, Ste Suite 236

New Haven, CT 06510
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Mailing Address
PO Box 208001
333 Cedar Street

New Haven, CT 06520-8001

Curriculum Vitae

Shepherd Lab

The SenseLab Project