The Madigan lab will explore the molecular mechanisms by which infections damage the brain. Many bacteria, including those that cause leprosy and tuberculosis, are capable of invading the nervous system and triggering inflammation. Although the neuronal damage that results can have lifelong consequences, little is known about how these microbes enter the brain and incite inflammation—and how these events cause injury. As a postdoctoral fellow, I established a system for studying nervous system infections in zebrafish and discovered that, in the case of leprosy, the inflammation itself drives neuronal injury. Now, combining this system with cutting-edge techniques in immunology, neurobiology, and live-animal imaging, my lab will determine how the bacteria that cause meningitis enter the zebrafish brain (whether by squeezing through the lining of blood vessels or hiding inside a host cell like a Trojan horse), assess which immune cells are involved in triggering inflammation, and characterize the mechanisms by which neurons are damaged or killed. This work could lead to novel therapeutics not only for brain infection, but for degenerative disorders that involve neuroinflammation, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.