The role of diurnal intracellular chloride changes in cortical network activity and plasticity


  • Dr Hannah Alfonsa

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Cyclical changes between sleep and waking states are a fundamental feature of human and animal physiology. During these different states, the brain exhibits distinct patterns of activity and also different capacities to learn and process information. However, the mechanisms that underlie these differences are not understood.

We want to investigate why mental performance differs depending on the time of day or night. We need to understand the daily changes that take place in our brains at the level of individual nerve cells and groups of nerve cells. I will investigate dynamic changes in inhibitory signalling between nerve cells, which occur in synapses. I will investigate how changes in synaptic inhibition can affect different types of brain activity associated with sleep and waking states. I will also assess how the same changes in synaptic inhibition affect the brain’s capacity to process and store new information throughout the day.

This research will advance our understanding of the cellular processes that underpin diurnal changes in the healthy brain also in disease. This may help us understand why patients with epilepsy, autism, and schizophrenia can often exhibit a combination of cognitive symptoms and disturbances to their sleep.