department of neurology  
Columbia University Medical Center | Department of Neurology
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David Sulzer, PhD
Professor of Clinical Neurology, Pharmacology and Psychiatry
Research Laboratories for Parkinson's Disease
Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry


  • PhD: Columbia University

» Sulzer Laboratory -

» Recent Publications

Dr. Sulzer's lab investigates the interaction between the synapses of the cortex and the basal ganglia, including the dopamine system, in normal behavior, including habit formation, planning, decision making, and action selection, and diseases of the system. Their work has made several fundamental contributions to understanding the mechanism of action of basal ganglia and dopamine neurons, brain cells of central importance in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, as well as schizophrenia and drug addiction. His research is devoted to understanding the molecular events that control dopamine neurotransmission as well as the neuronal effects that underlies neurodegenerative disease and autism. His laboratory has developed new optical, electrophysiological and electrochemical methods including the first direct recordings of quantal neurotransmitter release from synapses, which is the fundamental unit of neurotransmission and the first visual methods to observe neurotransmitter release and reuptake, enabling important insights into the brain mechanisms and short and long-term changes that underlie learning and memory. His work increased the understanding of the life cycle of synaptic vesicles, cellular structures that package neurotransmitter release.

Among the relevant discoveries and inventions of our laboratory are 1) development of the first system for postnatal culture of midbrain dopamine neurons (with Stephen Rayport), 2) discovered co-release of glutamate from dopamine neurons (with Stephen Rayport) 3) introduction of the weak base mechanism of amphetamine action and provided the first direct measurement of reverse transport, an important property of amphetamine 4) the first recording of quantal neurotransmitter release, using amperometry at dopamine terminals, 5) discovery of multiple means to alter quantal size, including the effects of L-DOPA, amphetamine, vesicle transporter expression (with Robert Edwards), rebound hyperacidification, and fusion pore flickering, 6) introduction of the biosynthetic pathway of neuromelanin, 7) introduction the role of autophagic degradation in methamphetamine toxicity, 8) introduction of the role for alpha-synuclein in the modulation of neurotransmission, along with the roles of numerous presynaptic regulators including metabotropic glutmate regulation, 9) discovered how alpha-synuclein is degraded by chaperone-mediated autophagy and how mutants and dopamine-modified synuclein block this step (with Ana Maria Cuervo), 10) providing the first optical analysis of corticostriatal transmission, showing the role of activity, dopamine, and acetylcholine in synaptic selection, using FM1-43 (with Nigel Bamford), 11) introduced fluorescent false neurotransmitters, which provide the first means to observe neurotransmitter release from CNS terminals (with Dalibor Sames), 12) discovered the role of glutamate in controlling axonal outgrowth and branching from growth cones.

The Sulzer lab has published over 120 papers on this research. For his work, Dr. Sulzer has received awards from the McKnight Foundation, NIH, and NARSAD, and he administers the NIDA T32 training program in basic neuroscience at Columbia.

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Department of Neurology | Columbia University Medical Center | Last updated: December 4, 2012 | Comments
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