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Peter J. West


Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Neurobiology of Disease




B.S. 1997, Lehigh University; Ph.D. 2004, University of Utah


Neuropharmacology of synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory in epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and Down syndrome

Dr. West is a staff scientist in the NIH sponsored Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program where he directs studies determining the electrophysiological mechanism of action of proprietary investigational compounds. Additionally, his research is focused on the pharmacological treatment of diseases that affect cognition such as Epilepsy, Down syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease. In order to identify novel molecular targets and test potential treatments, an understanding of the pathophysiological basis of cognitive deficit in these diseases must first be obtained and preclinical model systems must be developed. Presently, studies intended to characterize synaptic plasticity deficits in animal models of Epilepsy and Down syndrome are underway. Furthermore, these projects seek to discover and characterize novel treatments to correct these deficits (in the case of Down Syndrome) or to treat seizures and prevent epileptogenesis without affecting synaptic plasticity associated with learning and memory (in the case of Epilepsy). To achieve these goals, the lab currently uses electrophysiological, pharmacological, and immunohistochemical techniques. Of particular note, Dr. West's laboratory uses specialized equipment which allows the experimenter to perform simultaneous recordings from multiple brain slices, thus allowing for the high-throughput screening of compounds for their effects on long-term synaptic plasticity in a manner that accounts for the day-to-day variability often observed in physiological experiments that use in-vitro brain slices.

Selected Publications:

West, P.J., Marcy, V.R., Marino, M.J., and Schaffhauser, H. (2009) Activation of the 5-HT6 Receptor Attenuates Long-Term Potentiation and Facilitates GABAergic Neurotransmission in Rat Hippocampus. Neuroscience, 164:692-701.

West, P.J., Dalpe-Charron, A., and Wilcox, K.S. (2007) Differential Contribution of Kainate Receptors to EPSCs in Superficial Layer Neurons of the Rat Medial Entorhinal Cortex. Neuroscience, May: 146(3):1000-1012.

West, P.J., Bulaj, G., Olivera, B.M., and Yoshikami, D. (2005) Effects of delta-conotoxins PVIA and SVIE on sodium channels in the amphibian sympathetic nervous system. Journal of Neurophysiology, Dec;94(6):3916-3924.

Bulaj, G.*, West, P.J.*, Garrett, J.E., Marsh, M., Zhang, M., Norton, R.S., Smith, B.J., Yoshikami, D., and Olivera, B.M. (2005) Novel conotoxins from Conus striatus and Conus kinoshitai selectively block TTX-resistant sodium channels. Biochemistry, May 17;44(19):7259-7265 [*]: Authors contributed equally to this work.

Keizer, D.W., West, P.J., Lee, E.F., Yoshikami, D., Olivera, B.M., Bulaj, G., and Norton, R.S. (2003) Structural basis for tetrodotoxin-resistant sodium channel binding by conotoxin SmIIIA. Journal of Biological Chemistry, Nov 21;278(47):46805-46813.

West, P.J., Bulaj, G., Garrett, J.E., Olivera, B.M., and Yoshikami, D. (2002) Conotoxin SmIIIA, a potent inhibitor of tetrodotoxin-resistant sodium channels in amphibian sympathetic and sensory neurons. Biochemistry, Dec 24;41(51):15388-15393.

Bulaj, G., DeLaCruz, R., Azimi-Zonooz, A., West, P., Watkins, M., Yoshikami, D., and Olivera, B.M. (2001) δ-Conotoxin structure/function through a cladistic analysis. Biochemistry, Nov 6;40(44):13201-13208.

Craig, A.G., Zafaralla, G., Cruz, L.J., Santos, A.D., Hillyard, D.R., Dykert, J., Rivier, J.E., Gray, W.R., Imperial, J., DelaCruz, R.G., Sporning, A., Terlau, H., West, P.J., Yoshikami, D., and Olivera, B.M. (1998) An O-glycosylated neuroexcitatory conus peptide. Biochemistry, Nov 17;37(46):16019-16025.

Last Updated: 2/17/17