A major problem in neuroscience is understanding how the brain adapts to novel environments and inputs.
Using a combination of chronic in vivo structural and functional imaging, we are focused on the role that structural changes play in functional adaptations to the brain. In particular, we are interested in the interactions between the excitatory and inhibitory neurons during functional changes and how the balance between these two cells types facilitates adaptation.
To what degree does excitatory structural plasticity influence functional changes and what are the underlying mechanisms?
We are interested in how structural changes to excitatory cells parallel the many types of functional changes in the brain, including homeostatic plasticity, learning and adaptation to sensory changes. Using chronic structural and functional imaging, we can track changes in structure to individual cells over time, as the brain undergoes one of these types of plasticity.
What is the role of inhibitory structural changes during development and following changes in sensory input?
We are following GFP positive inhibitory neurons in vivo to quantify structural changes to inhibitory cells in the brain. By tracking these neurons over time, we can see how inhibitory cells change during development and measure the functional consequences of perturbations to this development. Furthermore, we can investigate how these inhibitory neurons adapt following sensory deprivation.
Together, by understanding the temporal relationships between excitatory and inhibitory changes, we can understand how both excitatory and inhibitory inputs are involved in circuit formation, and the role each cell type, as well as the balance between excitation and inhibition, plays in circuit adaptation.