Robert A. Pearce

Robert Pearce Prof Pic
Chair and Professor, Department of Anesthesiology
(608) 263-0208


M.D., Ph.D. University of Virginia-Charlottesville

Research Focus:

Inhibitory Synaptic Transmission, Hippocampal Function, and Mechanisms of Anesthetic Action

Research Strengths:

Membrane Excitability and Synaptic Transmission; Neural Circuits

Research Description:


Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding how anesthetics and other drugs that target GABA receptors control memory formation and consciousness. Using expressed recombinant receptors, hippocampal brain slice preparations, and multichannel in vivo recordings from the hippocampus, we are investigating how inhibitory circuits support and control network activity. We are particularly interested in identifying the molecular components and functional properties of different types of inhibitory synapses that are found on the dendrites of pyramidal neurons and interneurons, and in determining their roles in generating or controlling complex circuit responses, such as theta and gamma oscillations, and in regulating synaptic plasticity.


Please see PubMed for most recent publications

    • Rodgers, F. C., Zarnowska, E. D., Laha, K.T., Engin, E., Zeller, A., Keist, R., Rudolph, U., Pearce, R. A. (2015) Etomidate impairs long-term potentiation in vitro by targeting α5-GABAARs on non-pyramidal cells. Journal of Neuroscience 35: 9707-16.
    • Zarnowska, E.D., Rodgers, F.C., Oh, I., Rau, V., Lor, C., Laha, K.T., Jurd, R., Rudolph, U., Eger, E.I. 2nd, and Pearce, R.A. (2015) Etomidate blocks LTP and impairs learning but does not enhance tonic inhibition in mice carrying the N265M point mutation in the beta3 subunit of the GABAA receptor. Neuropharmacology 93: 171-178.
    • Balakrishnan, S., and Pearce, R.A. (2015) Spatiotemporal characteristics and pharmacological modulation of multiple gamma oscillations in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 8: 1-15.
    • Goldschen-Ohm, M., Haroldson, A., Jones, M.V., Pearce, R.A. (2014) A non-equilibrium binary elements-based kinetic model for benzodiazepine regulation of GABAA receptors. Journal of General Physiology 144: 27-39.
    • Balakrishnan, S., and Pearce, R.A. (2014) Midazolam and atropine alter theta oscillations in the hippocampal CA1 region by modulating both the somatic and distal dendritic dipoles. Hippocampus 24: 1212-1231.
    • Capogna, M, Pearce, R.A. (2011) GABAA,slow: causes and consequences. Trends in Neurosciences 34(2): 101-112.
    • Perouansky, M. and Pearce, R.A. (2011) How we recall (or don’t): The hippocampal memory machine and anesthetic amnesia. Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia, 58(2): 157-166.
    • Boileau, A.J., Pearce, R.A., and Czajkowski, C. (2010) The short splice variant of the γ2 subunit acts as an external modulator of GABAA receptor function. Journal of Neuroscience 30(14): 4895-4903.
    • Ferrarelli, F., Massimini, M., Sarasso, S., Casali, A., Riedner, B.A., Angelini, G., Tononi, G., and Pearce, R.A. (2010) Breakdown in cortical effective connectivity during midazolam-induced loss of consciousness: a TMS/hd-EEG study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107: 2681-2686.
    • Hentsche, H., Benkwitz, C., Banks, M.I., Perkins, M.G., Homanics, G.E., and Pearce, R.A. (2009) Altered GABAA,slow inhibition and network oscillations in mice lacking the GABAA receptor β3 subunit. Journal of Neurophysiology 102: 3643-3644.
    • Zarnowska, E.D., Keist, R., Rudolph, U., and Pearce, R.A. (2009) GABAA receptor a5 subunits contribute to GABAA,slow synaptic inhibition in mouse hippocampus. Journal of Neurophysiology 101: 1179-1191.
    • Hardie, J.B. and Pearce, R.A. (2006) Active and passive membrane properties and intrinsic kinetics shape synaptic inhibition in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. J. Neuroscience 26: 8559-8569.
    • Banks, M.I., White, J.A., Pearce, R.A. Interactions between distinct GABAA circuits in hippocampus (2000) Neuron 25:449-457.
    • White, J.A., Banks, M.I., Pearce, R.A., and Kopell, N. (2000) Networks of interneurons with fast and slow g-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) kinetics provide substrate for mixed gamma-theta rhythm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 97:8128-8133.
    • Banks, M.I., Li, T.B., and Pearce, RA. (1998) The synaptic basis of GABAA,slow. J. Neuroscience 18:1305-1317.
    • Pearce, R.A. (1996) Volatile anesthetic enhancement of paired-pulse depression investigated in the rat hippocampus in vitro. J Physiol. (Lond.), 492:823-843.
    • Pearce, R. A. (1993). Physiological evidence for two distinct GABAA responses in rat hippocampus. Neuron 10: 189-200.