First Journal Publication

I started this blog with two broad purposes – to write about interesting things going on in the world of neuroscience and to write about the (not-so) interesting things that I do. So far I have concentrated more on writing about cool things that other neuroscientists are doing around the world. Recently however, I have published my first first-authored journal paper in Molecular Pharmacology (American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics) on the work I did over the past summer in Washington University School of medicine in St.Louis. This gives the perfect opportunity to talk about my research.

It is unfortunate that the thousands of scientific research articles published every month remain obfuscate to the general population. Only a select few “charismatic” research that find their way to the Science section of the New York Times (or any other popular newspapers) enjoy a broader audience. Even then, the scientists behind the scenes are unhappy about these since they feel misinterpreted. Thus, the vast majority of articles remain shrouded in the mysterious journals to be read by a very small subpopulation in the field. I feel its time to demystify the scientific journals. Every published paper should come with a one page summary of the work done – devoid of any “specialist” terms – like an abridged version- written by the original writers. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to do that for my recently published work.

TITLE: …. What’s in a name? AKA I don’t want to scare you away …

INTRODUCTION: GABA receptors are simply the pores in the cell membrane that let ions in and out of the cell. It is known that steroids in the brain affect these receptors. However, we cannot directly study these effects in the brain of an animal because there are a lot of other things going on in the brain at the same time. So, the most common way of studying the effect of steroids in the brain is to insert the GABA receptors in a system where no other receptors are present. Then we study the electrical activity of these receptors by recording from 1-2 receptors at a time (single channel recording), or from all the receptors in the cell at once (whole cell recording).

The question now becomes whether the activity we see from the single channel recording really represents what’s going on in the neurons. This is the question we sought to answer.

METHODS:  We cultured neurons of the hippocampus in dishes and let them form connections. Then we submerged them in steroid solutions and recorded the spontaneous electrical activities from them (spontaneous inhibitory post synaptic current).

RESULTS: We found that yes, the electrical activity we see in single channel recordings in artificial cell lines do reflect the spontaneous currents in the neurons. The stronger the steroid, the more time it takes for the cell to recover from the spontaneous activities. This result essentially validates all the studies done with single channel recording technique and also helps to predict spontaneous electrical activity pattern from single channel recordings.



The first trace is showing the normal spontaneous activity of the neuron while the second trace is showing the spontaneous activity under the influence of a strong steroid.

Now that you have read through the basic idea and findings, I dare to divulge the title of the article:

Comparison of Steroid Modulation of Spontaneous Inhibitory Postsynaptic Currents in Cultured Hippocampal Neurons and Steady-State Single-Channel Currents from Heterologously Expressed α1β2γ2L GABAA Receptors

The full article can be read here:


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