Advisory Board

Dr. Dwayne W. Godwin

The article Study: Nitric Oxide Key to Brain “Booting Up” said

As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.
Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain operations, according to a new study.
In these first moments of the day, sensory information floods the system — the bright sunlight coming through the curtains, the time on the screeching alarm clock — and all of it needs to be processed and organized, so the brain can understand its surroundings and begin to perform more complex tasks.
“The thinking part of the brain is applying a sort of stencil to the information coming in, and what the nitric oxide is doing is allowing more refinement of that stencil,” says Dwayne Godwin, an associate professor at Wake Forest University and lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Eye Institute.

Dwayne W. Godwin, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He earned his Ph.D. at the UAB behavioral neuroscience program in 1992.
His basic science interests are thalamic physiology, neurophysiology of T-type calcium channels, role of nitric oxide in the central nervous system, and corticothalamic physiology. His related clinical interests are vision, alcoholism, epilepsy, parkinson’s disease, and adult stem cells. His lab participates in two NIH training programs supporting predoctoral and postdoctoral training experiences. One of these is funded through the NIDCD and emphasizes sensory neuroscience, and the other is funded through the NIAAA and emphasizes alcohol effects on the brain.
Dwayne coauthored Cortical feedback to the thalamus is selectively enhanced by nitric oxide, Metabotropic glutamate receptors as a strategic target for the treatment of epilepsy, Diurnal gene expression patterns of t-type calcium channels and their modulation by ethanol, Ethanol influences on native T-type calcium current in thalamic sleep circuitry, A novel means of Y cell identification in the developing lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat, and Transneuronal retrograde transport of attenuated pseudorabies viruses within central visual pathways. Read his full list of publications!
We experience the world through a variety of behavioral states that range from sleep to directed attention. Our consciousness shifts from one state to another with an ease that obscures the underlying neuronal complexity. Our reality is ultimately an internal simulation of external physical phenomena.
Dwayne’s laboratory is focused on the problem of how the nervous system exerts early control of its own sensory input in different behavioral states, and how this control is disrupted in diseases of the central nervous system. One model system that he uses for studying this state-dependent processing is the thalamus. The thalamus supports normal sensory perception as well as complex brain rhythms that can become disordered in CNS disease. One of the great advantages of using thalamic model systems is that they are so well characterized anatomically, physiologically, and neurochemically.
In his studies he employs a multidisciplinary mix of modern neuroscience techniques, including patch clamp recordings in slices, single neuron recordings paired with in vivo micropharmacology, immunocytochemistry coupled with light and electron microscopic anatomy, behavioral techniques, and molecular approaches such as real time RTPCR. He is also developing exciting new tools for delivering labile neurotransmitters, such as nitric oxide, to the central nervous system.
Listen to Dwayne on NPR’s Voices & Viewpoints.