Assistant Professor

Contact information

J. David Spafford.Office: Biology 1 (B1) 173
Phone: 519-888-4567 x38185
Webpage: David Spafford's website

Appointed to Biology


Postdoc, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary (2002)
Postdoc, Vrie Universiteit Amsterdam (1998)
PhD, University of Alberta (1998)
BSc, University of Saskatchewan (1992)


Dr. Spafford's laboratory focuses on analyses of voltage-gated calcium channels. Calcium channels participate in essential brain functions, such as synaptic transmission, neuronal plasticity, patterned nerve activity underlying rhythmic behaviours, outgrowth of neurons and synapse formation.  Calcium channels are excellent drug targets for treatment of pain, arrhythmias, angina, and potential benefits in treatment of epilepsy and cancer.

Techniques used in the Spafford lab include: single channel and whole-cell recording of channels and neurons; pre- and post- synaptic recording using sharp microelectrodes; transfection and analyses of in vitro expressed channels in human cell lines; isolation, and culture of in vitro identified synapses and networks; recording of intact neural networks underlying behavior; fluorescent tracking of proteins in developing synapses; ratiometric imaging using calcium-sensitive dyes; analyses of site-directed mutagenized and chimeric channels; study of protein-protein interactions using biochemistry.

Major projects in Dr. Spafford's lab focus on the: a) cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying calcium channel expression and localization in developing synapses; b) modulation of calcium channel function by G proteins, phosphorylation and synaptic proteins; c) isolation and characterization of anti-calcium channel toxins for caveolin 1 (Cav1), Cav2 and Cav3 calcium channels.

University of Waterloo

Waterloo researchers among top in Canada

Chris Eliasmith writing on a whiteboardChris Eliasmith, Director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, received the prestigious John C. Polanyi Award  and is also an inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

Profiles by type

How to Build a Brain

Chris Eliasmith’s team at the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience has built Spaun, the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain. The related book is now available and for the full article Waterloo Stories.


This is a collection of coverage of work with Nengo (Neural Engineering Objects) that has appeared in the popular press recently.