Monday, October 07, 2013

Synapse Evolution with Seth Grant (Brain Science Podcast 101)

 The latest episode of Dr. Ginger Campbell's Brain Science Podcast features "synapse evolution" with Dr. Seth Grant, Director of Genes to Cognition (G2C), a neuroscience research program that seeks to both discover fundamental biological principles and generate important insights into brain disease.
The Genes to Cognition programme (G2C) established a framework for studying genes, brain and behaviour in order to link basic molecular research from genomes and experimental genetic organisms with human clinical studies of cognition. The G2C framework was developed around the current understanding of the molecular basis of learning & memory.

The G2C programme collects and integrates data in the areas of psychiatry, human and mouse psychology, cellular neurophysiology and cell biology, proteomics and biochemistry, molecular biology, human and mouse genetics and genomics.
This is geeky stuff for those not versed in neuroscience (and even those who are), but Grant makes the information accessible for non-neuroscientists.

Great episode!

Synapse Evolution with Seth Grant (Brain Science Podcast 101)

September 27, 2013 | Ginger Campbell, MD

Seth Grant

Early in his career Seth Grant helped develop the transgenic mice that Eric Kandel used in his studies of how memory works. Since then he has combined his skill in genetics with his work on isolating the proteins that form the functional components of the synapse. (The synapse is a key component in the nervous systems of all multi-cellular animals.) When we last talked back in BSP 51 I was particularly struck by how many of these proteins actually evolved with single celled life--long before the arrival of nervous systems.

Recently Grant's work has focused on the discovery that the vertebrate synapse is actually much more complex than the one present in invertebrates. For BSP 101 we got together to talk about two papers he and his collegues recently published in Nature Neuroscience. These papers explore how small changes in the synapse proteins effect learning in measurable ways.

Grant has a special gift for making complex ideas clear, which means that this interview can be enjoyed by all listeners, even those who are new to the Brain Science Podcast and neuroscience.

Download Free Episode Transcript 


  • S.G.N. Grant, T. J. O'Dell, K. A. Karl, P. L. Stein, P. Soriano, and E. R. Kandel, "Impaired long-term potentiation, spatial learning, and hippocampal development in fyn mutant mice." Science 258 (1992):1903-10.
  • Emes RD, Pocklington AJ, Anderson CN, Bayes A, Collins MO, Vickers CA, Croning MD, Malik BR, Choudhary JS, Armstrong JD, Grant SG, "Evolutionary expansion and anatomical specialization of synapse proteome complexity." Nature Neuroscience 11 (2008) 799-806.
  • Nithianantharajah, J., Komiyama, N., McKechanie, A., Johnstone, M., Blackwood, D. H., Clair, D. S., Emes, R. D., van de Lagemaat, L. N., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J. & Grant, S. G. N. “Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 16-24. doi:10.1038/nn.3276
  • Ryan, T. J., Kopanitsa, M. V., Indersmitten, T., Nithianantharajah, J., Afinowi, N. O., Pettit, C., Stanford, L. E., Sprengel, R., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J., O'Dell, T. J., Grant, S. G. N. & Komiyama, N. “Evolution of GluN2A/B cytoplasmic domains diversified vertebrate synaptic plasticity and behavior.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 25-32. doi:10.1038/nn.3277
List of research papers by Seth Grant

See FREE transcript for more links and references

More episodes about brain evolution: BSP 47, BSP 48, and BSP 51


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Upcoming Episodes will feature the return of Olaf Sporns (BSP 74) and Dr. Allen Frances, author of Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life and Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis, Revised Edition: Responding to the Challenge of DSM-5®.

I (Dr. Campbell) will be at the University of Florida November 1-5, 2013 attending the meeting of the National Association of Science Writers. Drop me an email at if you would like to have a meet up.

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