Summary: Development of the nervous system requires that the various cells that make up neural tissues are able to recognize their location and the appropriate cells with which to interact with.  This cellular recognition involves a balance of cell adhesion and repulsion that is critical for many aspects of neural development.  For example, neurons must extend dendritic arbors of the appropriate size and shape, have cell bodies that are appropriately spaced from other cells of the same type, and make functional contacts with their appropriate synaptic partners.  Establishing these parameters requires that the cells be able to recognize themselves (for dendrite arborization), their homotypic neighbors (for cell spacing), and their pre- and postsynaptic targets (for synaptogenesis).  Defects in any of these processes can impact the receptive field properties of a class of neurons and subsequently alter the function of the circuits to which they belong.  My lab is attempting to identify and understand the molecular cues that promote development of the nervous system by studying mice that have mutations in recognition factors and that express fluorescent markers that label specific neural cell types.

Minimum classes: A course specifically in the area of anatomy and physiology or developmental biology

Projects: Development of the nervous system initially involves the rapid growth and connection of neurons. As the nervous system matures this ability to make new connections, termed plasticity, decreases. This allows for stable connections to form but also prevents healing of the neural tissues after damage. We are interested in signaling pathways to that regulate the ability of neurons to make new connections. We utilize a mix of approaches including mouse genetics, microbiology, histology, and genetics to better understand these signaling pathways. Student background should include the ability to work hard, curiosity, interest in basic science but no specific preparatory class work.

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