Dr. Murphy received his bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA. As a Ph.D. student, Dr. Murphy studied the neuronal correlates of classical conditioning in the marine mollusk Aplysia californica. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Murphy turned to genetically engineered mice as a model system to investigate the relationship between age-related changes in neuronal excitability and cognitive function.
Dr. Murphy’s research group at the University of Michigan Medical School is comprised of molecular geneticists, neurophysiologists and behavioral neuroscientists. His group is broadly interested in intrinsic neuronal properties that regulate network dynamics to drive complex behavior and how these properties and dynamics are corrupted by neurological and psychiatric disease states. Of particular interest are a class of proteins know as L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LVGCCs), which are thought to modulate a diverse array of neuronal function across multiple time frames ranging from milliseconds to days or weeks. To gain a better understanding of their function, Dr. Murphy’s research team has generated a variety of transgenic mice in which LVGCC expression has been altered.
As a researcher within the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program, Dr. Murphy is working with Dr. Sue O’Shea using human neurons derived from patients participating in the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder to study the impact of single nucleotide polymorphisms within CACNA1C (the gene that encodes the LVGCC CaV1.2) which have been repeatedly associated with a number of psychiatric diseases including bipolar disorder. For these studies, fibroblasts (skin cells obtained during biopsy) from research participants diagnosed with bipolar disorder and undiagnosed control individuals are reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Once pluripotency is achieved, the iPSCs can be further differentiated into a myriad of cell types, including neurons which are amenable to intracellular recordings and high resolution calcium imaging. Thus, the in vitro patient-derived neurons provide a unique opportunity to study disease-related changes that likely occur early in development at a time when in vivo experiments are not possible.
*University of Michigan Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute website