Richard Bertram


Professor, Department of Mathematics
Graduate Faculty Member, Institute of Molecular Biophysics
Graduate Faculty Member, Program in Neuroscience
Florida State University

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Current Research Interests

Activity of Pancreatic Beta-Cells
Pancreatic Beta-cells are located in islets of Langerhans in the pancreas and are the only cells in the body that secrete insulin, a hormone that is necessary for the uptake of glucose by other cells. Defects in beta-cell functioning lead to diabetes, which can result in death if not treated. The release of insulin is controlled by many physiological variables, including the cell's electrical activity, calcium, and nucleotide concentrations. I work in the development and analysis of mathematical models of beta-cell activity as well as potential methods for islet syncrhonization.

Hypothalamic Control of Hormone Secretion
The hypothalamus is the region of the brain that regulates the level and timing of hormone release from endocrine glands. One such gland, the pituitary, is located near the hypothalamus, and secretions from this gland regulate secretions from other glands. For this reason, the pituitary is sometimes called the "master gland". The hypothalamus sends both stimulatory and inhibitory input to the pituitary, resulting in neural regulation of secretion from gonadotrophs, somatotrophs, corticotrophs, melanotrophs, and lactotrophs. I develop mathematical models of pituitary cells, and my lab performs experiments to try to understand how the cells work and are regulated by the hypothalamus.

Bursting Oscillations in Excitable Cells
In nerve cells, information is transmitted through electrical impulses. Electrical impulses also cause muscles to contract and endocrine cells to secrete hormones. Quite often, impulses are generated as high-frequency bursts, followed by periods of quiescence. This is particularly true in endocrine cells such as pancreatic beta-cells and pituitary cells. I am interested both in the dynamics of bursting (a mathematical topic) and in the mechanisms by which different cells generate periodic bursts of impulses (a biological topic).

Synaptic Transmitter Release and Short-Term Plasticity
Information is processed and transmitted in nerve cells by electrical impulses. These impulses are passed from one nerve cell to the next through a process called synaptic transmission. In the presynaptic cell, an impulse evokes the release of one or more chemical neurotransmitters. These transmitters diffuse to the postsynaptic cell and bind to transmitter receptors, resulting in a postsynaptic voltage change. I am working on the development of mathematical models that describe certain aspects of this process, incorporating much of the known biophysical data. The goal is to better understand transmitter release and the mechanisms behind the enhancement or depression of release, i.e., synaptic plasticity.

Neural Network Controlling Bird Songs
Song birds have a dedicated region of the brain to produce songs. We are studying the neural mechanisms through which the song is produced in the male zebra finch, which is a good paradigm for the learning of sequential behavior (like reciting the alphabet). It also has some parralels with the learning of human speach production. We study neural electrical activity, and features of the song that is produced. We are also developing computational models for the neural activity and connectivity that can produce the sequential behavior that results in the stereotyped song of the male zebra finch.

Publications

Neural Models
Pancreatic Beta-Cells
Synaptic Transmission
Structural Biology
Hypothalamus and Pituitary
Neural Basis of Birdsong
Bursting Analysis
Other Topics

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Structural Biology
Hypothalamus and Pituitary
Synaptic Transmission
Pancreatic Islet
Neuron
Birdsong
Bursting Analysis
Other Topics

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Tocamos Mas

Address

Dr. Richard Bertram
Department of Mathematics (or Institute of Molecular Biophysics)
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Fl 32306

tel.: (850)-644-7195 (math office), (850)-644-7632 (IMB office)
e-mail: bertram@math.fsu.edu