Skip to main content
Punam Sawant-Pokam

Punam Sawant-Pokam, PhD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Neurology

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Seizures
  • Cortical Spreading Depression

Dr. Sawant-Punam has a long-standing interest in understanding how neurons process information in response to an external environment. The main focus of her research is to understand the cellular mechanisms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spreading depolarizations (SD; major form of excitability found in TBI), to evaluate novel experimental/technical approaches to delineate these mechanisms, and, most importantly, to apply mechanistic insights to the development of treatments.

Large numbers of the US population, including civilians and the military, suffer from brain injury, making the impact of TBI research tremendous. Using in vivo, whole-cell electrophysiology and two-photon imaging in genetically defined cells, her goal is to investigate how TBI affects neuronal intrinsic and synaptic mechanisms and how those influence dysfunctional brain excitability after TBI.

She started off studying the mechanism by which domoic acid (analog of kainic acid) or its stereoisomers precondition the brain against intense seizure insults. In these studies, she used wireless telemetry for in vivo electrocorticogram recordings, in vitro extracellular electrophysiology, and radioligand binding assays (PhD thesis, Dr. Steve Kerr’s laboratory). She has also developed a reliable in vitro model of seizures and status epilepticus (postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. F. E. Dudek’s lab). This approach has important advantages over traditional drug screens in intact animals, allowing high-throughput screens based on electrical events that have high “face value” as actual electrographic seizures. She next employed in vivo, whole-cell patch clamp and two-photon imaging to investigate how SD induces changes in neuronal membrane and synaptic properties and how synaptic excitatory/inhibitory transmission plays a role during the post-SD silencing period (postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. KC Brennan’s lab).

Today, take advantage of her prior research experience in her investigation of spreading depolarization and its influence on neurons and astrocytes after TBI.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship University of Utah School of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Otago
Graduate Training University of Otago
University of Pune

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Patrick D Parker, Pratyush Suryavanshi, Marcello Melone, Punam A Sawant-Pokam, Katelyn M Reinhart, Dan Kaufmann, Jeremy J Theriot, Arianna Pugliese, Fiorenzo Conti, C William Shuttleworth, Daniela Pietrobon, KC Brennan (2021). Non-canonical glutamate signaling in a genetic model of migraine with aura. Neuron, 109(4), 611-628.
  2. Punam A Sawant-Pokam, Tyler J Vail, Cameron S Metcalf, Jamie L Maguire, Thomas O McKean, Nick O McKean, KC Brennan (2020). Preventing neuronal edema increases network excitability after traumatic brain injury. J Clin Invest, 130(11), 6005–6020.
  3. Patrick D Parker, Pratyush Suryavanshi, Marcello Melone, Katelyn M Reinhart, Punam M Sawant-Pokam, Dan Kaufmann, Jeremy J Theriot, Arianna Pugliese, Fiorenzo Conti, C William Shuttleworth, Daniela Pietrobon, KC Brennan (2020). Non-canonical glutamate signaling in a genetic model of migraine with aura. bioRxiv.
  4. Pratyush Suryavanshi, Punam Sawant Pokam, KC Brennan (2020). Altered synaptic adaptation and gain in sensory circuits of the casein kinase 1 delta (CK1dT44A) mouse model of migraine.
  5. Sawant-Pokam PM, Suryavanshi P, Mendez JM, Dudek FE, Brennan KC (2016). Mechanisms of Neuronal Silencing After Cortical Spreading Depression. Cereb Cortex, 27(2), 1311-1325. (Read full article)
  6. Tang YT, Mendez JM, Theriot JJ, Sawant PM, Lopez-Valdes HE, Ju YS, Brennan KC (2014). Minimum conditions for the induction of cortical spreading depression in brain slices. J Neurophysiol, 112(10), 2572-9. (Read full article)
  7. Vranyac-Tramoundanas A, Harrison JC, Sawant PM, Kerr DS, Sammut IA (2011). Ischemic cardiomyopathy following seizure induction by domoic Acid. Am J Pathol, 179(1), 141-54. (Read full article)
  8. Sawant PM, Tyndall JD, Holland PT, Peake BM, Mountfort DO, Kerr DS (2010). In vivo seizure induction and affinity studies of domoic acid and isodomoic acids-D, -E and -F. Neuropharmacology, 59(3), 129-38. (Read full article)
  9. Sawant PM, Mountfort DO, Kerr DS (2010). Spectral analysis of electrocorticographic activity during pharmacological preconditioning and seizure induction by intrahippocampal domoic acid. Hippocampus, 20(8), 994-1002. (Read full article)
  10. Sawant PM, Holland PT, Mountfort DO, Kerr DS (2008). In vivo seizure induction and pharmacological preconditioning by domoic acid and isodomoic acids A, B and C. Neuropharmacology, 55(8), 1412-8. (Read full article)
  11. Sawant PM, Weare BA, Holland PT, Selwood AI, King KL, Mikulski CM, Doucette GJ, Mountfort DO, Kerr DS (2007). Isodomoic acids A and C exhibit low KA receptor affinity and reduced in vitro potency relative to domoic acid in region CA1 of rat hippocampus. Toxicon, 50(5), 627-38. (Read full article)
  12. Hesp BR, Clarkson AN, Sawant PM, Kerr DS (2007). Domoic acid preconditioning and seizure induction in young and aged rats. Epilepsy Res, 76(2-3), 103-12. (Read full article)