Now entering its third decade, the Vollum Institute has become widely recognized as a center of excellence in molecular neuroscience, synaptic physiology, and cellular signaling. Recent faculty recruitments in structural biology, biophysics, and developmental neurobiology have greatly increased the breadth of investigation carried out in institute laboratories and have already resulted in significant advances, uncovering unexpected mechanisms of neurotransmitter receptor and transporter function, synaptic vesicle physiology, and mechanisms of disease that may lead to new therapeutic approaches to depression, stroke, pain management, muscle disorders, autism, and mental retardation. New appointments anticipated over the upcoming year will add strength in state-of-the-art optical approaches to problems involving neural circuits and signaling, two areas of central concern to the entire OHSU neuroscience community. These new optical methods will provide greatly improved resolution of molecular events involved in synaptic transmission and circuitry and will likely uncover new aspects of regulation relevant to such conditions as Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. The great success of our joint program with the Oregon Hearing Research Center has spawned similar efforts with the OHSU Departments of Neurology (Jungers Center) and Pediatrics that should increase connections between Vollum investigators and researchers in the fields of neurodegeneration and neurodevelopment. Two recruitments with these departments have occurred already and several more are expected over the next two years. These connections have been cemented, in part, by the new Neurobiology of Disease course, which has brought together investigators in basic and clinical departments throughout the OHSU campus. Clearly, neuroscience research is a growth area at OHSU. While many Vollum investigators are devoting an increasing amount of their attention to how their work relates to disease, the main focus remains on basic aspects of neuroscience, in particular, trying to understand the mechanisms underlying synaptic modulation and the communication of signals between one excitable cell and another. Our hope is that the continued emphasis on basic mechanisms will provide new directions for translational research, and possibly new therapies, in the future.
Richard H. Goodman, MD, PhD
Director and Senior Scientist