Michael Paolillo, PhD Student

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Michael Paolillo, PhD Student

Hometown: New York, USA

Affiliation: University of Tübingen, Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry / Graduate Training Centre of Neuroscience

What are you working on?

In our lab, we work to understand the cellular signaling cascades that influence learning and memory. Our main focus is on the second messenger 3',5'-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). cGMP has been implicated in the learning and memory processes known as long term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD) in various neural regions. LTP is characterized by the strengthening of neural connections, while LTD is characterized by an activity-dependent weakening of neural connections. cGMP-influenced LTP has been observed in the amygdala and hippocampus, while cGMP-influenced LTD has been reported in the cerebellum. It is our goal to better understand the downstream targets of cGMP and how they influence different types of learning in specific neuronal cell types.

How are you going to find out?

Colleagues of mine have developed a genetically modified mouse line that contains a cGMP biosensor, which has proven to be a powerful tool that allows us to 'see' cGMP dynamics in living cells, tissues, and mice. We additionally utilize various genetically modified mice and employ pharmacological agents to stimulate or inhibit specific molecular targets, after which we are able to further elucidate the molecular players in learning and memory. This research helps to answer questions such as 'What happens at the cellular level in the brain when we learn to ride a bike'.

Your favourite thing outside of science?

I enjoy being outside, especially now that it's summer. Whether going for a bike ride, grabbing an ice cream near the Neckar River, or meeting up with friends for a beer, it's always good to get out of the lab and spend some time with friends.

When you’re eighty and looking back on your life, what will you have achieved?

I hope to have made the people around me smile and laugh a little bit more. I don't expect to make any ground breaking discoveries, but along the way I do expect to make the lives of people around me a little more interesting and a little more enjoyable.

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