Our laboratory's major interest is the in the mechanisms responsible for the development and plasticity of precise connections within the central nervous system, and particularly in the role of neural activity in this process. Most of the work of the laboratory is on the visual cortex of the mouse. In normal development, neural connections to and within the visual cortex are refined to high precision through the action of activity-dependent mechanisms of neural plasticity in combination with specific molecular signals. In our experiments, we induce activity-dependent plasticity experimentally through manipulations of genetics or experience or by pharmacological or neurophysiological intervention in order to discover what cellular mechanisms and what changes in cortical circuitry are responsible for rapid, long lasting changes in neuronal responses. We analyze these changes using microelectrode recordings, novel techniques for measurement of optical and metabolic signals related to neural activity, including 2-photon microscopy and intrinsic signal imaging, and anatomical and neurochemical tracing of connections.
Current experimental work in the laboratory focuses on four areas: (a) Understanding the coupling between the physiological and anatomical changes responsible for neuronal plasticity. (b) Understanding the cellular mechanisms of activity-dependent cortical plasticity, primarily through the use of transgenic mice. (c) Understanding the interaction between neural activity and molecular cues in the formation of cortical maps. (d) Understanding the difference between the limited plasticity in the adult brain and the much greater plasticity during critical periods in early life.