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Sculpting the nervous system: Cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural circuit refinement

Mathematical Biology

Speaker: Karen Zito, Center for Neuroscience, UC Davis
Location: 2112 Mathematical Sciences Building
Start time: Tue, Oct 10 2017, 12:00PM

One of the most remarkable properties of the brain is its ability to undergo adaptive modifications in response to changing environments. This property, known as experience-dependent plasticity, is essential not only for the fine-tuning of developing circuits, but also for behavioral changes, such as learning and memory, in adults. Over the past decade, advances in fluorescent labeling and imaging techniques have enabled direct visualization of the structural reorganization of neuronal circuits during experience-dependent circuit plasticity. Dendritic spines, small protuberances that receive a large fraction of the excitatory input onto neurons, have been a major focus of these studies; the gain or loss of spines is thought to represent the establishment or elimination of neural circuit connections, and the enlargement or shrinkage of spines is associated with an increase or decrease in the strength of synaptic connections. I will present the results of our efforts to define the neural activity patterns and downstream signaling mechanisms that drive the structural modifications of dendritic spines during experience-dependent plasticity.