A $1.4 million, three-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been awarded to Ryohei Yasuda, scientific director at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and collaborator Wenbiao Gan, professor at the NYU Langone Medical Center, to develop optogenetic tools to analyze protein activity in neurons during synaptic and behavioral plasticity, a key process in understanding learning and memory in the brain. Synaptic plasticity, learning and memory are regulated by protein signaling in the brain. Many forms of learning disabilities and other mental diseases may be caused by abnormal protein signaling. To address these brain disorders and diseases, it is crucial to understand on a molecular level the underlying processes within the brain that are involved in learning and memory. "Synaptic plasticity is thought to be a basis of learning and memory of the brain," said Yasuda. "The work supported by this grant will improve our knowledge of the biochemical events that underlie synaptic plasticity and will provide significant insights into what happens in our brain on a molecular level when mental disorders occur." This NIH grant was awarded as part of the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN Initiative). This federal initiative dedicates funds to the most promising researchers and projects with the potential to advance our understanding of the human brain.