Josh Hawk

Start Year: 2019
Starting Institution: Yale University
Project Title: Synthetic Synaptic Biology: Creating Tools to Re-Wire Neural Circuitry

The function of a nervous system depends on the activity of individual neurons and the nature of connectivity between these neurons. Currently, there are many approaches to control the activity of neurons, but few to control their connectivity. I will spend this summer at MBL laying the foundation for a new approach to behavioral neuroscience using synthetic synapses built from heterologously expressed synaptic components. Specifically, I will create an array of synthetic electrical synapses for achieving tunable synaptic strengths, distinct synthetic electrical synapses applicable to vertebrate systems, and a novel synthetic peptidergic synapse capable of volume and distance transmission. These tools will allow me to test the functional contribution of specific synaptic connections to neural circuit activity and behavior.