Lauren French

Title: Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
Primary Department: Biology
Other Programs: Neuroscience and Jewish Studies
Degrees: B.A., Oberlin College; Ph.D., Cornell University

Phone: 814-332-3306
Office Location: Steffee Hall B319

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My research interests fall under the general heading of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience.  I am interested in exploring what makes individual neurons unique from one another, how they “talk” to each other to transmit information in the nervous system, and how drugs and toxins affect their function.  The projects in my lab involve both neurophysiology and molecular biology techniques.

Pharmacology is critical to the study of the nervous system; to learn how proteins such as ion channels contribute to normal function, and to discover the mechanism underlying pathological conditions.  One project involves a genus of hunting snails whose venom is very complex and potent, acting solely on the prey’s nervous system.  Many of the snail venom compounds have applications in medicine as well as in basic bench research.  My goal is to find pharmacological agents that target some specific calcium and potassium ion channels in order to further understand the role these proteins play in the nervous system.

Another project involves the trafficking of a type of ion channel called the BK channel and its possible role in epilepsy.  The activity of this channel has been shown to be upregulated after an animal experiences a seizure.  If we want to understand how seizures change neurons, and how this might be prevented, it is necessary to understand the mechanism behind this change in ion channels.

There is also research in my lab involving the neuromuscular system of the crayfish, studying the stretch receptors located in the tail, which are analogous to vertebrate’s muscle spindle organs which are responsible for proprioception.  I am interested in the pharmacology of this system- how the neurons respond to various compounds (e.g. neurotransmitters, drugs, or toxins).