Plasticity & Stability
Experience has profound influence on the nervous system throughout our lives. On one hand, it directly shapes the organization and connectivity of neural circuits through what are known as ‘experience-dependent plasticity’ mechanisms. On the other hand, persistent experience-dependent synaptic change in the neural circuit can trigger homeostatic mechanisms that counteract experience-dependent plasticity, thereby maintaining an intricate balance between plasticity and stability within the neural circuits. Both experience-dependent plasticity and homeostatic regulatory mechanisms are critically important for normal function of the nervous system, as abundant evidence has linked failures in these mechanisms to functional deficits observed in various neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. The long-term goal of my lab is to unravel the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying this intricate balance between plasticity and stability in intact neural circuits.
A unique animal model we use in the lab is the albino Xenopus laevis (tadpole). Xenopus laevis has a long history as a productive and cost-effective animal model in studying the development and function of vertebrate neural circuits, and has contributed significantly to our current understanding of plasticity mechanisms. The central nervous system of the tadpole is amenable to a wide variety of manipulations, from molecular to circuit level, and provides a powerful in vivo system to study the basic laws governing the organization and formation of nascent neural circuits, where plasticity and stability are both pivotal for the survival of the animal. We use multidisciplinary tools to ask our questions, ranging from molecular genetics, biochemistry, and microscopy, to behavioral tests, to time-lapse structural and functional in vivo imaging.