Vincent DeStefino

Undergraduate Degree: BS
Undergraduate Degree Year: 2012
Undergraduate Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Undergraduate Major: Neuroscience

Academic Status
Year in Program: MS3
Graduate Program:
Research Advisor First Name: R. Mark
Research Advisor Last Name: Richardson
Research Title/Research Topic: Characterizing parvalbumin innervation of dentate granule neurons AIS and somata in the normal and epileptic human brain
Current Research Description: There is currently no cure for TLE beyond removal of brain structures implicated in the epileptogenic zone. The precise cellular and molecular changes that occur in epilepsy are not yet well understood, and translational studies aimed at understanding these changes must be carried out in human brain tissue. GABAergic interneurons are crucial to controlling hyperexcitability in the brain, and these circuits are known to play a central role in epileptogenesis. No studies to date have simultaneously quantified expression levels of multiple key molecular markers of the AIS of dentate granule neurons or components of GABAergic signaling at synapses onto DGNs. Additionally, there lacks a thorough systematic description of GABAergic connectivity within the normal human hippocampus in the literature, which hinders our ability to understand the context of these changes identified in epilepsy. We aim to study the morphological and molecular changes at the synapse level of PV-cells and DGNs of human epileptic tissue. We believe that these changes lead to dysfunctional inhibitory control of DGNs in human TLE. Specifically, we hypothesize that there will be a difference in the mean number of ChC and PV basket cells (PVBC) inputs per DGN AIS and soma, respectively, in resected tissue from TLE patients and control non-epileptic postmortem tissue. We hypothesize that the mean number of ChC inputs per DGN AIS will be increased, while the number of PVBC inputs per soma will be decreased compared to that in postmortem brain sections. Furthermore, we expect that the GABAergic bouton density and the PV neuron-to-DGN ratio will be reduced in epilepsy.

Undergraduate Honors: Department of Neuroscience Excellence in Research Award, University of Pittsburgh, 2011. (One of five senior neuroscience undergraduate students to receive this award.) Deanís Honors List (multiple semesters). Outstanding Freshman Biology Student Award 2007. (One of five freshman students to receive this award.) University Honors College Full Tuition Scholarship, University of Pittsburgh, 2006-2011.

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