Bruce P. Bean

Harvard University

Primary Section: 23, Physiology and Pharmacology
Secondary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 2014)


Bruce Bean is Robert Winthrop Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Bean is a physiologist recognized for his work on how ion channels control the excitability of neurons and cardiac muscle. Bean was born in Schenectady, New York in 1951. He graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Biology and received a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Rochester in 1979. He received further training as a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine, working with Richard W. Tsien on cardiac electrophysiology. In addition to his current position at Harvard Medical School, he has worked at the University of Iowa and at the Vollum Institute of Oregon Health Sciences University

Research Interests

Our laboratory studies ion channels, the molecules underlying neuronal electrical excitability. Our main goal is to understand how the dozens of different types of ion channels expressed in mammalian neurons work together to produce the very different patterns of neuronal firing characteristic of different kinds of neurons. To do this, we use both brain slices and acutely dissociated neurons to record patterns of action potential firing and then use the voltage clamp technique to characterize the kinetics of the underlying ion channels, using pharmacological agents or genetically-modified animals to separate currents from distinct types of channels. We are particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie spontaneous firing of neurons in the absence of sensory or synaptic input. We are also interested in pathophysiological conditions that result in hyperexcitability of neurons, a phenomenon implicated in a number of diseases, including epilepsy, chronic pain, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We are attempting to develop new pharmacological agents to treat some of these conditions.

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