The overall goal of my research program is to conduct interdisciplinary multilevel research addressing fundamental questions about brain function with direct relevance to the human condition. To do that I adopt an integrative systems level approach to brain research which translates across multiple levels of analysis- genomics, molecular, cellular, physiological, systems and behavioral.
Specifically, a major project aims at studying the effects of early life stress on crating vulnerability to mental disease throughout life, with a focus on regulation and functional relevance of adult hippocampal stem cells. In this project we investigate the function of the newborn neurons and their integration into the existing circuitry of learning, memory and emotional processing. Additionally, we aim to determine the environmental and internal cues that control the state and fate choices (neurons vs. glia) of adult hippocampal stem cells, and the role of gene expression and RNA processing (i.e., transcription regulation, RNA splicing and micro RNA), in the translation of those cues to fate decisions made by the stem cell.
A second project aims at studying the mechanisms of epileptogenesis that follow traumatic brain injury and precede the onset of clinical epilepsy. We demonstrated that disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), as occurs after head injury, is a major precipitating event in triggering epileptogenesis. Using rodent models, we have shown that albumin, a major component of the blood, enters the brain during BBB dysfunction, and activates the TGF-β signaling pathway in astrocytes, triggering a regulatory cascade that modulates inflammation and neuroexcitability. Critically, we have shown that blocking albumin from binding to and activating the TGF-β receptor prevents subsequent epileptiform activity and onset of spontaneous seizures. We are currently investigating the mechanistic details by which TGF-β signaling contributes to epileptogenesis, via its affects on adult neural stem cells, neurons and glia, as well as translating our findings towards the clinical context by investigating the efficacy of drugs that block the TGF-β receptor.
In the News
Male friendships, portrayed and often winked at in bromance movies, could have healthful effects similar to those seen in romantic relationships, especially when dealing with stress.
Berkeley scientists show that the effects of chronic stress on fertility persist long after the stress is gone.
UC Berkeley neuroscientist Daniela Kaufer and colleagues in Israel and Germany have shown in rats that a drug commonly prescribed for hypertension can nearly eliminate the epilepsy that often follows severe head injury. Nearly one in five cases of epilepsy is the result of head trauma.
Daniela Kaufer made a startling discovery about the effect of psychological stress on the brain a few years after serving in the Israeli army during the first Gulf War.
University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown that chronic stress generates long-term changes in the brain that may explain why people suffering chronic stress are prone to mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders later in life.
Five UC Berkeley scientists eager to take their lab-bench discoveries into the marketplace have been awarded Bakar Fellowships to help them achieve their goals.
New research by Kaufer and UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby has uncovered exactly how acute stress – short-lived, not chronic – primes the brain for improved performance.
UC Berkeley’s Daniela Kaufer and colleagues have discovered one way by which emotions such as fear affect memory. The brain’s emotional center, the amygdala, induces the hippocampus, a relay hub for memory, to generate new neurons. In a fearful situation, these newborn neurons are activated by the amygdala, providing a “blank slate” for the new fearful memory.