Natasha Hussain,PHD

Scientific Director

Specialization: Synaptic protein interactions, molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory

Contact

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

725 N. Wolfe Street

Hunterian 1001

Baltimore, MD 21205

410-614-3739

natasha@jhmi.edu

As Scientific Director, Natasha Hussain designs and develops new initiatives, and oversees program operations that support the Kavli NDI mission. In her leadership role, Natasha facilitates interactions among neuroscientists, engineers and data scientists with the goal of advancing neuroscience discovery by fostering transdisciplinary research.

Natasha received a B.Sc. from McGill University in Montreal, QC, Canada where she completed a dual major in biology and environmental science. Natasha continued in her doctoral training at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute at where she earned a Ph.D. in Neurology and Neurosurgery. With applied expertise in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology she contributed several central discoveries in neuroscience. Her studies focused on presynaptic endocytic recycling related to cell cytoskeletal dynamics, Rho GTPases mediated signal transduction, and the functional characterization of a family of proteins implicated in Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology.

Since obtaining her doctorate, Natasha has concentrated her scientific investigation towards understanding the functional role of several proteins enriched at synapses, the points of connection between neurons that mediate their network communication. Studies on the regulation and enrichment of select proteins at synapses are not only relevant to understanding cellular communication throughout the brain, they may underlie a cellular correlate to how we are able to learn and store memories.

She conducted her postdoctoral training at MIT in the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Cambridge, MA, USA. There she expanded her interests in molecular and cellular neurobiology to study the mechanisms regulating neuronal cyto-architecture and synapses. In collaborative works with other scientists at MIT, she developed a mammalian model system to allow for optical monitoring of fluorescently labeled excitatory forebrain synapses. This system was designed to investigate the behavioural consequences that modifying synaptic connectivity and strength can have in vivo. Her research also focused on elucidating the cell biology and physiology of a family of protein kinases that are genetically linked to psychiatric disorders, and to determine their roles in the development and function of synapses.

Prior to joining the Kavli NDI, Natasha was a research associate in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied molecular components of synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity of neurons denotes the ability to dynamically modulate the pre-existing connections between neurons. It is widely held that long-term plasticity of the brain is mediated in major part by morphological reorganization of neuronal circuits, and specifically by the selective strengthening and weakening of synapses. This plasticity of neurons plays a fundamental role in learning, memory and in the manifestation of neurological diseases and disorders. Accumulating evidence suggests early cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as disorders associated with intellectual disability may be caused by disrupted excitatory synaptic transmission mediated by AMPA (a-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) type glutamate receptors. Natasha conducted foundational research on how specific protein complexes affect AMPA receptor function to regulate neuronal plasticity.

Natasha is the recipient of numerous awards including a Human Frontiers Postdoctoral Fellowship, FRSQ-FCAR-Santé and CIHR Fellowships, Martin L. Wills Scholarship from Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation, and the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction Brain Star Award. 

Mission

To advance neuroscience discovery by uniting neuroscience, engineering and computational data science to understand the structure and function of the brain.

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