Professor and Director, Department of Neuroscience Investigator,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. Richard Huganir is a Professor and Director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Brain Science Institute. He has joint appointments in the Department Biological Chemistry and the Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Huganir completed his undergraduate work in biochemistry at Vassar College in 1975. He received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell University in 1982 where he performed his thesis research in the laboratory of Dr. Efraim Racker. He was a postdoctoral fellow with the Nobel Laureate, Dr. Paul Greengard, at Yale University School of Medicine from 1982-1984. Dr. Huganir then moved to the Rockefeller University where he was an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology from 1984-1988. Dr. Huganir came to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1988 as an Associate Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. He was promoted to Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1993. Dr. Huganir became the Director or the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience in 2006. Dr. Huganir received the Young Investigator Award the Julius Axelrod Award from the Society for Neuroscience, the Santiago Grisolia Award and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Huganir has published over 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Huganir’s career has focused on synapses, the connections between nerve cells, in the brain. The function of the brain, our emotions, our intelligence, and our ability to learn and remember all depend on the complexity of these connections between neurons. These intricate connections form neuronal circuits that are constantly modified during life by experience. Dr. Huganir has been interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the transmission of signals at synapses. Dr. Huganir’s general approach has been to study molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate neurotransmitter receptors. These receptors mediate the response of neurons to neurotransmitters released at synapses and are a central convergence point for transmission of signals between neurons. Modulation of the function of these receptors is a powerful and efficient way to modulate the strength of connections between neurons. Dr. Huganir’s studies have shown that the regulation of receptor function is a major mechanism for the regulation of neuronal connectivity in the brain and is critical for many higher brain processes including learning and memory, fear and the proper development of the brain. Moreover, recent evidence has indicated that disruption of these forms of receptor regulation plays an important role in several neurological and psychiatric disorders of the brain including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, ALS, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, autism, intellectual disabilities as well as chronic pain and drug addiction.