Sulzer Lab

Location and Contact Information

40 Haven Ave 
New York, NY 10032
United States
Mailing Address:
1051 Riverside Drive
Kolb 4th floor, Unit 1
New York, NY 10032
United States

Principal Investigator

Our lab studies the physiology and cell biology of neurotransmission, particularly with dopamine and the striatum, and mechanisms involved in both normal and diseased functions of these systems. We developed the first methods to directly record the fundamental unit of neurotransmitter release (the quantal event) and its kinetic modulation (using amperometry), developed new culture methods for primary dopaminergic neurons, and with Dalibor Sames’s lab (Dept. of Chemistry), invented the first optical methods for detecting neurotransmitter uptake and release (fluorescent false neurotransmitters).

With the Sames lab, we are developing novel non-genetic chemical reporters of neurotransmission and activity for future use in the clinic. We discovered autoimmune features of Parkinson’s disease and neuronal antigen presentation, and with collaborators (Dritan Agalliu, Columbia University, Alessandro Sette, La Jolla Institute for Immunology) are defining the immunological features of brain disorders in human and animal models.

We introduced the study of autophagy in neurons and are determining the role of these pathways in autism, the developmental steps for basal ganglia neuron maturation, synaptic formation and pruning, and how these change in neurodegeneration (with Ana Maria Cuervo, Albert Einstein College of Medicine).

We are adapting multiple in vivo and in vitro physiological and optical methods to define the properties of specific central nervous system pathways and modifications that integrate sensory inputs and motor activity that underlie reward, fear and safety, and motor skill learning.

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Lab Members

Current Members

  • David Sulzer, PhD

    Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, Pharmacology

    Dave Sulzer is a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, Pharmacology, and at the School of the Arts at Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute. He attended Michigan State University, studied plant breeding and genetics at the University of Florida, and received a PhD in biology from Columbia University. His lab has published over 200 studies on synaptic function in normal and diseased states that are cited over 40,000 times (h-index 86). He is the founder of the Dopamine Society, the Gordon Conference on Parkinson’s Disease, and the journal Nature Parkinson’s Disease. He has received awards from the McKnight, Simons, Helmsley, NARSAD, Huntington’s, and Aaron Diamond Foundations and given named lectureships at the National Institutes of Health, Harvard, Yale, UCSF, Emory, UC Irvine, and the Universities of Minnesota, Jerusalem and London and the Portuguese and Austrian Societies for Neuroscience. His students and postdocs have received Fulbright, Marshall, and Regeneron awards for their work in the lab, and past trainees are professors at Columbia, Rutgers, Cornell, Yale, Lund, Pittsburgh, Jefferson, Tufts, Emory, Karolinska, Ecole Normale Superieure, and NYU, while one who runs a pharmaceutical company and one is the science editor at the Wall Street Journal.

    David Sulzer, PhD
  • Eugene V. Mosharov, PhD

    Research Scientist

    My long-standing research interest is to determine mechanisms responsible for differential susceptibility of neurons in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease. Other research directions include studying cell-type specific mechanisms of activity-dependent exocytosis and synaptic plasticity.

    Eugene V. Mosharov, PhD
  • Mark Sonders, PhD

    Associate Research Scientist

    I use optical microscopy techniques to explore questions in neuropharmacology, brain structure, function, and disease.

    Mark Sonders, PhD
  • Ellen Kanter, MS

    Lab Manager

    Expert in making primary dopaminergic neuronal cultures.

    Ellen Kanter, MS
  • Yaqian (Heather) Xu, MD, MPH

    Clinical Research Coordinator

    MD from Sichuan University, China and MPH from Columbia University coordinating clinical recruitment for autoimmunity in neurodegenerative disorders studies.

    Yaqian (Heather) Xu, MD, MPH
  • Vanessa Morales, ALAT

    Animal Specialist

    Vanessa is ALAT accredited specialist in animal care and the person to go to with all animal care and genotyping needs.

    Vanessa Morales, ALAT
  • Irena Pigulevskiy

    Lab Technician

    I have a BS in Pharmacology from Stony Brook University, and have been utilizing my expertise in cell culture, molecular biology, and electrophysiology to further the understanding of what effects development has on the striatum.

    Irena Pigulevskiy
  • Sejoon Choi, PhD

    Associate Research Scientist

    Studying alpha synuclein-dependent regulation of L-type calcium channels in Substantia nigra dopamine neurons.

    Sejoon Choi, PhD
  • Michael Post, PhD

    Research Scientist

    Originally from Florida, PhD from Caltech chemistry, and currently interested in new techniques for imaging dopamine release.

    Michael Post, PhD
  • Mahalakshmi Somayaji, PhD

    Postdoctoral Research Scientist

    Investigating mechanisms underlying drug addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders.

    Mahalakshmi Somayaji, PhD
  • Stefano Cataldi, PhD

    Postdoctoral Research Scientist

    B.S. Pharm from the University of Ferrara and PhD in Neuroscience from UBC, Vancouver. My focus is on motor learning and how is processed by the striatum, using calcium imaging and computational analysis.

    Stefano Cataldi, PhD
  • Wudu Lado, PhD

    Postdoctoral Research Scientist

    Studying the role of cytomegalic neurons in TSC-mediated epilepsy with Guomei Tang as PI and David Sulzer as Co-PI.

    Wudu Lado, PhD
  • Ori Lieberman, PhD

    MD/PhD Student, finishing up MD program

    Scientific interests include mechanisms of basal ganglia development, especially the role of autophagy in postnatal development of the striatum, with implications for neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism and ADHD.

    Ori Lieberman, PhD
  • Avery McGuirt

    Graduate Student

    Avery's areas of investigation include the postnatal development of the striatum, and striatal activity contouring underlying cue-directed behaviors.

    Avery McGuirt
  • Adrien Stanley

    Graduate Student

    B.S. from the University of SUNY Old Westbury. I am studying the role the tail of the striatum plays in processing of learned safety signals as well as aversive stimuli, using fiber photometry and pharmacological approaches.

    Adrien Stanley
  • Ben Hobson

    MD/PhD Student

    Colorado native got lured into the concrete jungle by the scent of RNA biology in dopamine neurons, co-mentored by Peter Sims.

    Ben Hobson
  • Connor Monahan

    Graduate Student

    Co-mentored by Dritan Agalliu, is studying the role of the adaptive immune response in the initiation and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

    Connor Monahan
  • Xavier Westergaard

    Graduate Student

    B.S. from Yale College. I am developing an imaging system based on the combinatorial use of false fluorescent neurotransmitters and genetically-encoded monoamine reporters to trace serotonin uptake and release.

  • Mark De Los Santos

    Graduate Rotation Student

    Mark came to NYC from undergrad at UT Dallas interested in the immunological aspects of neurodegenerative diseases. Only time and the rotations will tell what else he gets hooked onto.

    Mark De Los Santos

Past Lab Members

Select Publications

  • Somayaji M, Cataldi S, Choi SJ, Edwards RH, Mosharov EV, Sulzer D. A dual role for α-synuclein in facilitation and depression of dopamine release from substantia nigra neurons in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Dec 22;117(51):32701-32710. Epub 2020 Dec 3. PMID: 33273122.

  • Lieberman, O.J., M.D. Frier, A.F. McGuirt, C.J. Griffey, E. Rafikian, M. Yang, A. Yamamoto, A. Borgkvist, E. Santini, and D. Sulzer. 2020. Cell-type-specific regulation of neuronal intrinsic excitability by macroautophagy. eLife. 9. PMID: 31913125

  • David Sulzer, Roy Alcalay, Francesca Garretti, Lucien Cote, Ellen Kanter, Christopher Liong, Carla Oseroff, John Pham, Myles B Dillon, Chelsea Carpenter, Daniela Weiskopf, Elizabeth Phillips, Simon Mallal, Bjoern Peters, April Frazier, Cecilia S. Lindestam Arlehamn, Alessandro Sette (2017). T cells of Parkinson’s disease patients recognize alpha-synuclein peptides. Nature, 546:656-661. PMID:28636593

  • Tang, G., Gudsnjk K., Kuo S-H, Cotrina M, Rosokliga G., Sonders M, Kanter E., Barnard C, Yamamoto A, Yue Z, Champagne F, Dwork, A. J., Goldman J., Sulzer, D. (2014) Dendritic spine pruning defects in autism mediated by neuronal loss of macroautophagy. Neuron, 83:1-13. PMID: 25155956

  • Cebrian, C., Budhu, S., Zucca, F.A., Mauri, Pl, Mandelbaum, J., Scherzer, C., Vonsattel, J.P., Zecca, L., Loike, J.D., Sulzer, D. (2014) MHC-I expression renders catecholaminergic neurons susceptible to T-cell mediated degeneration. Nature Communications, 16:1-14. PMID:24736453

  • Daniela B. Pereira, Yvonne Schmitz, József Mészáros, Paolomi Merchant, Gang Hu, Shu Li, Adam Henke, José E. Lizardi-Ortiz, Richard J. Karpowicz Jr, Mark Sonders, Ellen Kanter, Pamela C. Rodriguez, Eugene Mosharov, Dalibor Sames*, David Sulzer* (2016) Imaging individual synapses with novel fluorescent false neurotransmitter FFN200 reveals a low density of active striatal dopamine terminal. Nature Neuroscience, 19:578-586. PMID:26900925