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Ryan’s laboratory is interested in the molecular basis of synaptic function, the essential point of communication between neurons. Ryan and his colleagues focus on presynaptic biology, in which neurotransmitter-containing synaptic vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane at the synapse in response to electrical stimulation. His lab develops optical techniques to measure synaptic function in real time. Combined with molecular and chemical tools, this approach allows them to address fundamental questions about how synaptic communication is controlled. Areas of interest include the processes that determine the abundance and control of synaptic voltage-gated calcium channels, how the supply of fuel needed to support synaptic function is regulated, and how synaptic vesicles are rebuilt after the release of a neurotransmitter.

Through his studies on synapse function, Ryan hopes to gain insight into how information is controlled both in normal and diseased states of brain function.