Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.
I started my career as an electronics and communication engineer. I joined the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as a Master's student in 1995, and after completing my masters I continued with my PhD in the institute, both in the Electrical Engineering department, with Prof. Y. V. Venkatesh. During my Masters, I had worked on problems in computer vision building a strong theoretical base in neural networks and learning theory. Building upon this interest in neuroscience, I switched to working on computational neuroscience for my PhD and worked on models of map formation in the visual cortex. Rigorous training with Prof. Venkatesh provided me the requisite mathematical and computational techniques required to tackle complex problems in neuroscience.
Taking my strong interests in fundamental neuroscience further, I switched to Prof. Sumantra Chattarji's laboratory in the National Centre for Biological Sciences, where I had explored computational aspects of stress-induced plasticity in the hippocampus and the amygdala. Postdoctoral training with PRof. Chattarji helped me build a strong theoretical foundation in cellular neurophysiology, to which I was not exposed to until then. The wide span of research interests of Prof. Chattarji's laboratory (spanning genes to behavior) also provided me with an understanding of various neuroscience techniques and the intricacies associated with the execution of experiments and the interpretation of their results.
My work at Prof. Chattarji's laboratory got me interested in neuronal dendrites (thin processes that receive and integrate inputs from other neurons), and plasticity in ion channels associated with learning and memory. This took me to Prof. Daniel Johnston's laboratory, where I trained as an experimental electrophysiologist. It was in Prof. Johnston’s laboratory that my transition from electrical engineering to experimental neurobiology was complete, with rigorous training in quantitative electrophysiology and biochemical signaling cascades that are critically involved in neuronal plasticity. In Prof. Johnston’s laboratory, I had explored the impact of ion channel gradients and localized vs. global plasticity in these channel gradients on neuronal physiology employing a combination of dendritic electrophysiology and computational modeling techniques.
My laboratory in the Indian Institute of Science (https://mbu.iisc.ac.in/~rngrp/) was established in August 2009 as a cellular neurophysiology laboratory (CNL) employing electrophysiological, imaging and computational techniques. The prime focus of the laboratory is on plastic active dendrites and an interdisciplinary approach is taken to assess the roles of these dendrites in neuronal and network physiology. Work in CNL has systematically assessed interactions spanning several dendritic ion channels and neuronal morphology (Rathour and Narayanan, 2012b; Dhupia et al., 2015; Mishra and Narayanan, 2015), and has shown that active dendritic mechanisms play a critical role in mediating location-dependence of the precise features that neurons encode (Das and Narayanan, 2014; 2015), in defining the specific nature of extracellularly recorded neural potentials (Sinha and Narayanan, 2015), and in regulating the impact of gliotransmission on neurons (Ashhad and Narayanan, 2016).
A common theme of work in CNL is biological degeneracy, defined as the ability of disparate structural components to elicit analogous function. Studies from CNL have demonstrated that several disparate channel combinations could elicit analogous dendritic functional maps or synaptic plasticity profiles, providing insights into how neuronal systems might achieve robust homeostasis through several non-unique routes (Rathour and Narayanan, 2012a; Honnuraiah and Narayanan, 2013; Rathour and Narayanan, 2014; Anirudhan and Narayanan, 2015; Srikanth and Narayanan, 2015; Rathour et al., 2016; Mukunda and Narayanan, 2017). Finally, work in CNL has also unveiled bidirectional interactions between the plasma membrane and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane, showing that channels on the dendritic membrane can modulate ER function (Ashhad and Narayanan, 2013) and that activation of channels on the ER membrane is sufficient to alter plasma membrane channel properties (Ashhad et al., 2015).
My strong interests in basic and fundamental neuroscience, with a specific focus on the role of cellular components (dendrites, channels, receptors, intracellular organelles and signaling pathways) in mediating and regulating neuronal and network physiology, has been the driving force behind my research career, and the goal is to further our scientific understanding of neuronal physiology through rigorous experimental and computational studies.