Meyer Jackson

Position title: The Kenneth S Cole Professor of Neuroscience Ph.D., 1977, Yale University


Phone: Phone: (608) 262-9111 | Lab: (608) 262-9112 | Fax: (608) 265-7821

RESEARCH INTERESTS - Studies of synaptic mechanisms at the molecular, cellular, and circuit levels

Meyer Jackson

Postdoctoral Fellow position available (click here)

Students interested in graduate study can apply to the following Ph.D programs:
Program in Biophysics
Neuroscience Training Program
Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Program
Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Biology

 Synaptic transmission is central to virtually everything the nervous system does. Our research focuses broadly on synaptic transmission in mammalian systems. We study synapses from the molecular to the circuit level using electrophysiological, electrochemical, and imaging techniques.

At the molecular level our major focus is synaptic release and Ca2+-triggered exocytosis. Exocytosis begins with the formation of a fusion pore connecting the vesicle interior with the outside of a cell (Figure 1). A fusion pore spans both the vesicle and plasma membranes and in many ways behaves like an ion channel. We have adapted the classical ideas of ion channels to the study of fusion pores. In endocrine cells we measure the flux through single fusion pores with amperometry, and used these measurements to determine how proteins such as synaptotagmin and SNAREs drive membrane fusion. We have extended the concept of the fusion pore from endocrine cells to synapses by recording miniature synaptic currents in cultured neurons. Experiments with these methods have indicated which proteins form the fusion pore and which proteins control their opening and expansion.

Figure 1. Catecholamine flux from a single vesicle in an endocrine cells reports three successive stages in exocytosis. The SNARE proteins, which play an essential role in exocytosis, are shown in different hypothetical configurations.

To relate what we learn about synapses at the molecular and cellular levels to neural circuit function we image electrical activity. Brain slices stained with a voltage sensitive dye or expressing a genetically-encoded voltage sensor can be imaged to follow the flow of electrical activity through a complex, intact neural circuit. This method is particularly powerful in detecting subtle variations in synaptic plasticity, and we have shown that long-term potentiation stores information in hippocampal slices, which we can then recall by subsequent stimulation. This work has tested the mechanism of pattern completion in an intact neural circuit. We can express voltage sensors in a variety of genetically defined types of neurons as well as in neurons activated by experience. Imaging from these defined populations of neurons is revealing the fundamental organization of neural circuitry.

Figure 2. A hippocampal slice (left) stained with voltage sensitive dye was imaged. Blue traces are optical signals that report electrical activity at each location. To image synaptic plasticity (right) theta bursts were applied and a difference map was constructed.


  • Ma, Y., Bayguinov, P. O., Jackson, M. B. Action Potential Dynamics in Fine Axons Probed with an Axonally-Targeted Optical Voltage Sensor. eNeuro 4: e0146-17 (2017).
  • Bayguinov, P. O., Ma, Y., Gao, Y., Zhao, X., Jackson, M. B. Imaging Voltage in Genetically-Defined Neuronal Subpopulations with a Cre Recombinase-Targeted Hybrid Voltage Sensor. J Neurosci 37:9305-19 (2017). Cover image.
  • Chiang, C. W., Chang, C. W., Jackson, M. B. The Transmembrane Domain of Synaptobrevin Influences Neurotransmitter Flux Through Synaptic Fusion Pores. J Neurosci 38:7179-7191 (2018). Cover image.
  • Jackson, M. B. Hsiao, Y.-T., and Chang, C.-W. Fusion Pore Expansion and Contraction During Catecholamine Release from Endocrine Cells. Biophys. J. 119: 219-231 (2020).
  • Jackson, M. B. Hebbian and non-Hebbian Timing-Dependent Plasticity in the Hippocampal CA3 region. Hippocampus 30: 1241-56 (2020). Cover image.
  • Chiang, C. W., Shu, W. C., Wan, J., Weaver, B., and Jackson, M. B. Recordings from Neuron-HEK Cell Co-cultures Reveal the Determinants of Miniature Excitatory Postsynaptic Currents. J. Gen. Physiol. 153: (2021). Research news highlight
  • Chang, C. W., Hsiao, Y. T., and Jackson, M. B. Synaptophysin regulates fusion pores in chromaffin cells. J. Neurosci. 41: 3563-78 (2021).
  • Ma, Y., Bayguinov, P. O. McMahon, S. M., Scharfman, H. E., and Jackson, M. B. Direct synaptic excitation between hilar mossy cells revealed with a targeted voltage sensor. Hippocampus 11: 1215-1232 (2021). Cover image.