Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Neural Circuit Plasticity
As neural circuits are established during development and modified during learning, their fine-tuning requires adjustments in the strength of synaptic connections. In the mammalian brain, these functional changes in circuits are supported by structural changes in dendritic spines, microscopic protrusions from neuronal dendrites that serve as the primary sites for excitatory synaptic connections. Our ultimate goal is to elucidate the molecular and cellular signaling mechanisms that drive the structural and functional changes in the neuronal circuits that support learning and complex behaviors. Achieving this goal is critical for understanding both how neuronal plasticity supports learning and what goes wrong when learning is disrupted in disease. Our hope is that results from our experiments will provide important information to guide the development of novel strategies for the treatment of neurological disorders.
Research in the Zito Lab is supported by the National Institute of Health, the Astera Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.