Michael J. Friedlander, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology, Virginia Tech
Senior Dean for Research, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Professor of Biological Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech
Professor, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
My research program is directed at understanding the processes that regulate alterations in synaptic efficiency between neurons within the cerebral cortex—synaptic plasticity—and how these cellular processes are affected during brain development, after experience including learning and in response to brain injury. Specifically, my laboratory uses quantitative single neuron patch clamp electrophysiological methods along with cellular and subcellular imaging to visualize the changes in structure and calcium signals that underlie alterations in functional synaptic connectivity within the mammalian neocortex. This work is carried out in vitro in acute living brain slice preparations with simultaneous whole cell patch clamp recording from multiple cortical neurons that are synaptically interconnected. This approach allows for the application of quantal analysis to determine how the induction of synaptic plasticity affects a variety of components of synaptic transmission including probability of presynaptic neurotransmitter release in response to a single action potential in an individual cortical neuron and the quantal size or postsynaptic neurotransmitter receptor availability. We have found that, surprisingly, apparently like-type sets of interconnected cortical neurons exhibit wide variability in their baseline synaptic transmission properties and in their plasticity behavior in response to an identical synaptic conditioning protocol. We are currently studying the origin of the variability of synaptic plasticity between different sets of cortical synapses of otherwise like-type, specifically evaluating to what degree intrinsic differences in gene expression vs. environmental activity during early brain development and throughout life modify the capacity, likelihood and polarity of changes in synaptic efficiency.
In addition, we have discovered that the temporal patterns of incoming synaptic activity impinging onto a single neocortical neuron can differentially modulate plasticity responses, even when the overall frequency of the activation is identical. We are using this approach to explore plasticity induction processes in the normal brain and after brain injury. This line of investigation is also aimed at identifying specific patterns of synaptic activation that are most effective at accessing the downstream plasticity signaling pathways in the injured brain as an approach to neurorehabilitation.
As senior dean for research of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, I also oversee the school’s research education activities, lead the research value domain of the curriculum, and administer the research mentorship program.
For a full listing of Dr. Friedlander's publications, visit PubMed.
Education and Training
- University of Virginia: Postdoctoral fellowship
- University of Illinois: Ph.D.
- Baylor College of Medicine
Wilhelmina Robertson endowed Professor of Neuroscience
Director, Neuroscience Initiatives
Awards and Honors
- First Annual Undergraduate Neuroscience Society Distinguished Scholar Award, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2014
- AAMC Board of Directors Distinguished Service Member, 2012
- Wilhelmina Robertson Endowed Chair in Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, 2005
- Evelyn F. McKnight Professor of Learning and Memory in Aging, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2004–2005
- Saez I, Friedlander MJ. (2016). Role of GABAA-Mediated Inhibition and Functional Assortment of Synapses onto Individual Layer 4 Neurons in Regulating Plasticity Expression in Visual Cortex. PLOS ONE.
- Hilborn RC, Friedlander MJ. (2013). Biology and physics competencies for pre-health and other life sciences students. CBE Life Sci Educ 12(2): 170-4.
- Zhu PJ, Huang W, Kalikulov D, Yoo JW, Placzek AN, Stoica L, Zhou H, Bell JC, Friedlander MJ, Krnjević K, Noebels JL, Costa-Mattioli M. (2011). Suppression of PKR Promotes Network Excitability and Enhanced Cognition by Interferon-γ-Mediated Disinhibition. Cell 147(6): 1384-96.
- Friedlander, Michael J.; Andrews, Linda; Armstrong, Elizabeth G.; Aschenbrenner, Carol; Kass, Joseph S.; Ogden, Paul; Schwartzstein, Richard; Viggiano, Thomas R. (2011). What Can Medical Education Learn From the Neurobiology of Learning? Academic Medicine 86(4): 415-420.
- Saez, I and Friedlander, MJ. (2009). Plasticity between neuronal pairs in layer 4 of visual cortex varies with synapse state. J. Neurosci 29: 15286-15298.
- Saez, I and Friedlander, MJ. (2009). Synaptic output of individual layer 4 neurons in guinea pig visual cortex. J. Neurosci 29: 4930-4944.
- Reveron-Torres, J. and Friedlander, M.J. (2007). Properties of persistent postnatal cortical subplate neurons. J. Neurosci 27: 9962-9974.
- Perrett S, Dudek S, Eagleman D, Montague PR, Friedlander MJ. (2001). LTD Induction in Adult Visual Cortex: Role of Stimulus Timing and Inhibition. Journal of Neuroscience 21(7): 2308-2319.
- Kara, P. and M.J. Friedlander. (1999). Arginine analogues modify signal detection by neurons in the visual cortex. J Neurosci 19: 5528-5548.
- Dudek, S.M. and M.J. Friedlander. (1996). Developmental down-regulation of LTD in cortical layer IV and its independence of modulation by inhibition. Neuron 16: 1097-1106.