Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Bean, Bruce P.
Location Harvard University
Primary Field Physiology and Pharmacology
Secondary Field Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
 Election Citation
Bean has pioneered biophysical analysis of how the activity of excitable cells is shaped. He demonstrated that calcium channel modulation by calcium blockers and G-proteins is reciprocally coupled to voltage-dependent gating. He showed that sodium channels which support excitability also generate tiny but sustained subthreshold currents, crucial for rhythmic firing.
 Research Interests
Our laboratory studies ion channels, the molecules underlying neuronal electrical excitability. Our main goal is to understand how the dozens of different types of ion channels expressed in mammalian neurons work together to produce the very different patterns of neuronal firing characteristic of different kinds of neurons. To do this, we use both brain slices and acutely dissociated neurons to record patterns of action potential firing and then use the voltage clamp technique to characterize the kinetics of the underlying ion channels, using pharmacological agents or genetically-modified animals to separate currents from distinct types of channels. We are particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie spontaneous firing of neurons in the absence of sensory or synaptic input. We are also interested in pathophysiological conditions that result in hyperexcitability of neurons, a phenomenon implicated in a number of diseases, including epilepsy, chronic pain, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We are attempting to develop new pharmacological agents to treat some of these conditions.

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