The effect of sensory experience on neural circuit development and refinement.

Time: 10:00-11:30 , May 5, 2016
Venue: B323, Medical Science Building, Tsinghua University
Speaker: Dr. Xiang Yu

Host: Dr. Xiang Yu
Sensory experience is critical to development and plasticity of neural circuits. Our laboratory is interested understanding the molecular mechanism underlying activity-dependent neural circuit development and refinement. In recent works, we studied the mechanisms underlying global forms of plasticity during early development and local forms of plasticity during neural circuit refinement in adolescence. We uncover an early form of crossmodal plasticity in the mouse sensory cortices, where deprivation of sensory input into one sensory modality crossmodally reduce excitatory synaptic transmission in other sensory cortices. We further demonstrate that this effect is mediated by the neuropeptide oxytocin and can be rescued by increased natural sensory experience through environmental enrichment. In terms of neural circuit refinement, we demonstrated that a competition-based mechanism concurrently induced maturation of active spines and pruning of less active spines, an effect mediated by the cadherin/catenin cell adhesion complex.  Developmental neurological disorders, including autism and schizophrenia, have been reported to have defects in spine pruning, and oxytocin treatment is a hotly debated therapy for autism. We hope to contribute towards a better understanding of these important disorders through our work..