Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D.
My research program seeks to identify and understand the key neuroanatomical and molecular determinants that govern the complexities of behavior, and how perturbations in these effectors can result in clinical manifestations associated with CNS disorders that emerge across the lifespan of people including monogenic neurodevelopmental disorders (Rett syndrome and related MeCP2 disorders, Fragile X syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis), neuropsychiatric indications (ADHD and schizophrenia) and adult onset neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease). Our approach to address these questions leverages the strength of studying two model systems in parallel, laboratory mice and rats, to forge definitive links between manipulations of CNS-related genes in specific brains regions and during critical developmental windows, alterations in neurobehavioral endophenotypes, and changes in EEG-derived measures of in vivo neural network activity associated with these behavioral states.
The experimental framework implementing a cross-species approach, such as that used in our research program, offers unique insight that cannot be readily obtained from studying a single model organism alone. By building upon findings based on evolutionary conservation and collaborating with a team of like-minded driven groups with expertise in human-derived cellular models, human genetic and clinical studies, and high-throughput screening platforms, my overall objectives to elucidate mechanisms of and treatment for CNS disorders may be better realized.
Finally, I am an advocate for “team science”, serving the broader scientific community through several leadership positions of NIH-funded endeavors. I am the Associate Director of the BCM Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC), Director of the BCM IDDRC and Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) Neurobehavioral Core Facilities, and am the Academic Lead for the behavioral phenotyping component of BCM’s Knock Out Mouse Project, an NIH Common Fund Research Program contributing to the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium’s overall goal to create and characterize a null allele of every protein-coding gene of the mouse. Through these endeavors and my current research program, I am actively engaged in fostering collaborations with academic, non-profit and industry partners to conduct large-scale rodent behavioral evaluations and preclinical studies.