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SPARC Festival Keynote Speaker

david ginty, Ph.D.David Ginty Ph.D.

How do we feel? An exploration of the sensory neurons of touch

Wednesday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. in Knott Auditorium

David Ginty, Ph.D., has worked for more than two decades to unravel the mysteries of peripheral nervous system (PNS) organization and development. His research is currently focused on understanding the development and functional organization of neural circuits that underlie the sense of touch, and the cellular and circuit basis of touch and pain sensations. Ginty is also interested in the cellular and molecular basis of touch and pain sensations under disease conditions.

Ginty’s talk, “How do we feel? An exploration of the sensory neurons of touch,” will focus on what happens when symphonic ensembles of neural impulses flow from our skin to our brains to convey tactile encounters with the physical world. “Our ability to perceive and respond to the physical world is rooted in the cadre of intricate nerve cell endings in our skin, the largest and least understood of our sensory organs,” says Ginty.

For example, how does one composition of impulses signify a mother’s nurturing touch, and others a menacing bug, a summer’s breeze, a tickle, a complex pattern of Braille dots or raindrops? Ginty’s research also strives to understand whether and how dysfunction of touch information processing underlies tactile deficits in disorders of the nervous system, such as autism, and during neuropathic pain. His team’s discoveries are revealing the organizational logic of neural circuits that underlie touch perception and how alterations of these somatosensory circuits give rise to sensory dysfunction in disease states.

Currently, Ginty is an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (since 2000), an associate editor for the scientific journal Neuron (since 2003), and the associate director for the Harvard University Program in Neuroscience (since 2015).

Previously, Ginty served as a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore from 2004-13. In 1989, Ginty graduated with a doctorate in physiology from East Carolina University School of Medicine, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount St. Mary’s University in 1984.


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