Department: Molecular Physiology & Biophysics
Faculty Mentor: Richard Simerly, Ph.D.
Dissertation Description: Determining the mechanism underlying the role of leptin in neural network development
The Simerly lab is focused on understanding how environmental factors influence the development of complex neural networks. Currently, our focus is on how early life exposure to high fat diet affects the food intake and energy homeostasis of offspring throughout their lifespan. Our model focuses on leptin as the main player, which is an adipocyte-derived hormone that acts on neurons in the hypothalamus to inhibit hunger. Our goal is to elucidate a molecular mechanism that developmentally patterns a healthy energy regulation network. We use genetic approaches in mouse models as well as immunohistological techniques with confocal microscopy to visualize networks of interest.