Sunil Gandhi

gandhiThe brain has the remarkable capacity to rewire its connections and thereby reorganize its function. In the juvenile brain, the plasticity of neuronal connections mediates the fine-tuning of a wide range of behaviors, from visual perception to language acquisition to social recognition. What mechanism regulates the plasticity of connections in the young brain? How might we manipulate neural circuits to reactivate this plasticity? In the visual cortex, modifications of GABAergic inhibition have been shown to elicit the plasticity of neuronal connections and responses, but the mechanism by which inhibition regulates such plasticity remains poorly understood. We recently gained insight into this process when we discovered that the transplantation of GABAergic interneurons into the visual cortex induces a new period of plasticity after the normal juvenile period had terminated. Our finding strongly suggests that interneurons are developmentally programmed to emit a signal that generates cortical plasticity. Current projects in the lab are focused on understanding the nature of the plasticity signal emitted by interneurons. We employ a combination of techniques including two-photon functional imaging, in vivo patch-clamp recordings, the transplantation of neuronal precursors, and mouse genetic tools that identify, stimulate and silence defined neural circuits. Understanding the plasticity signal emitted by interneurons may eventually spur new cell-based therapies for brain repair. Beyond plasticity, these studies may also shed light on the disorders such as autism and schizophrenia that have been proposed to arise from neurodevelopmental imbalances in neocortical excitation and inhibition.

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