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Nicholas Spitzer

Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, UC San Diego

Nicholas C. Spitzer is Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology and Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind (KIBM) at the University of California, San Diego. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University. After postdoctoral work at Harvard and University College London he joined the UCSD faculty in 1972. He has been chair of the Biology Department and the Neurobiology Section and served as chair of the UC San Diego Academic Senate. He has also served on several NIH study sections, as a member of the NIH NINDS Council and as a Trustee of the Grass Foundation. He is editor-in-chief of, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He studies the mechanisms by which electrical activity is integrated with gene expression to promote the acquisition of neuronal phenotypes. He currently focuses on neurotransmitter specification and transmitter switching. The initial expression of neurotransmitters is specified by genetic programs and sensory stimuli can then respecify neurotransmitter identity in both the developing and the adult brain. The process of neurotransmitter switching is a newly recognized form of brain plasticity, complementing changes in synapse strength and synapse number, and may be harnessed to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.