Deep dive into brain circuitry

Csaba Földy joined the Brain Research Institute as a new assistant professor in November 2015. He talked to ZNZ News about what motivated him to come to Zurich and how he plans to study the genetics of brain circuitries.

ZNZ News: What are your research interests?
Foldy_150x150Csaba Földy:
I am interested in understanding how individual genes contribute to function in the brain, especially to the formation and function of neuronal circuits. During my post-doc in Thomas Südhof’s laboratory at Stanford University, I focused mainly on cell adhesion molecules such as neurexins and neuroligins. These proteins bridge the synaptic cleft and play an important role in signaling at the synapse. They are expressed in hundreds of alternatively spliced isoforms, which suggests that individual neurons might exhibit a cell-type-specific expression patterns. It is thought that these genetic differences contribute to the function of the synapse. Cell adhesion molecules have been implicated in multiple psychiatric and neurological disorders. We used mouse models of autism to study how the circuitry may in have changed in patients with a similar genetic background.

Why did you want to work at the Brain Research Institute?
The Brain Research Institute is a great environment in many ways. It is one of the leading institutes in Europe. Already when I first visited, it was clear to me that the Institute provides a versatile and highly collaborative environment, which produces strong research. I am thrilled to be here.

Can you tell us about your plans for future research?
The major goal of is to get a more sophisticated understanding of how genetics determine circuits and how these circuits contribute to information processing. To start with, I will look at circuits in the hippocampus because of the tremendous experience we have with this region, but will soon move on to as many other circuits as possible to see what the common features are. Using current technology, especially high throughput sequencing, we can make a big leap in learning about genetics at the single cell level of a specific circuitry. To bring the single cell analysis into a high throughput sequencing application, I will work with the Functional Genomics Center Zurich at the Irchel Campus.
I have only just started; November 1 was my first day. A post-doc will join me in December and I am very excited to enlarge the group in 2016.

What drives you in your research?
On the one hand it is the intellectual understanding of brain functions that motivates me; on the other hand I want to bring this knowledge to translational use. Using the information we can get from single cell sequencing together with the knowledge we have of the electrophysiology and anatomy, we can outline new diagnostic tools that can hopefully be used in the clinic in the future.


About Csaba Földy
Csaba Földy studied physics in Budapest where he acquired a solid computational background and went to the USA to familiarize with electrophysiology during his PhD at UC Irvine. He then moved on to the Stanford University to the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Thomas Südhof, and Robert Malenka to specialize on molecular neuroscience during his post-doc. Many scientific papers in high ranked journals resulted from this period. In 2014, he received an ERC Starting Grant (later replaced by a SNF – ERC Transfer Grant). More

Image: Neuron affected by a neuroligin-3 mutation. (Courtesy Csaba Földy)