Lab Overview

Welcome to the Laboratory of Akiva S. Cohen PhD
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania

Our principal research interest is understanding the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie cognitive impairments associated with traumatic brain injury. We are primarily concerned with alterations in neuronal excitability in the limbic system of the brain. This system has been shown to play a primary role in higher cognitive function (e.g. learning and memory) and is damaged in traumatic brain injury. Recently we have found that alterations in glial and neuronal cellular metabolism can contribute to regional shifts in hippocampal network excitability. We incorporate a variety of techniques to understand the nature and functional consequences of injury-induced alterations.

Our studies involve contextual fear-conditioning as a behavioral means to assess cognitive impairments and extracellular field potential recording to evaluate functional status of the injured hippocampus. Unbiased stereology is implemented to quantify the degree of cell death. Single-cell recording techniques are employed to probe the changes to both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission following injury. Biochemical methods are used to examine specific proteins that have been altered by injury and may be underlying synaptic and/or circuit dysfunction. High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography mass spectrophotometry (GC-MS) allow us to quantitate and examine alterations in glial and neuronal metabolic pathways. The combination of these methodologies should help elucidate putative mechanisms causing injury-induced cognitive deficits. A better understanding of these injury-induced alterations will provide insight for directing the development of potential therapies that aim to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction in patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.