Kara Marshall, M.S. Ph.D.

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Dr. Kara Marshall

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital

Appointed McNair Scholar June 2022

The Marshall lab studies interoception, which is the nervous system's representation of sensations from within the body. We focus on mechanical force sensation, which is a critical part of many systems - the gastrointestinal system churns, squeezes and stretches in the process of digestion, and the sensation of the bladder filling is critical to know when it's time to go. Detecting these cues is critical for everyday functions that we often take for granted. Moreover, when we become acutely aware of internal sensations, it is often in the context of pain. The molecular and cellular identities of mechanosensors that govern these important physiological processes remain poorly understood. The Marshall lab's goals are to better understand these internal sensations that govern wide-ranging processes in physiology in both healthy and disease states. This will lay the groundwork to develop therapies to treat internal pain, a common but disruptive condition that occurs in many diseases.

Beyond governing the basic functions of our body, interoception can have effects on our cognition and mood. The connections between internal sensations and cognition are not well understood. We use a variety of techniques to begin to parse the mechanistic underpinnings of these exciting mysteries at the molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels. This includes using genetic models, in vivo imaging, physiology, neuronal tracing, opto- and chemo-genetics, and custom behavioral measurements. Overall, investigations in the Marshall lab will define how the brain senses the body.