A Circuit Mechanism for the Development of Cortico-cortical Connectivity

2020 Seed Grant
Natalia V. De Marco Garcia, Ph.D.
Cornell University

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect 1 in 59 children in the US. Despite the high prevalence and the debilitating nature of these conditions, we have only a vague picture of what causes autism and therefore very few effective diagnostic tools or therapies have been developed. Our project seeks to design a novel approach using advanced microscopy (imaging) techniques in live mouse models carrying genetic mutations in ASD high-risk genes within select cell types. Recent experimental evidence indicates that ASD are strongly associated with impairment in a chemical messenger that provides inhibition to the brain, GABA. The long-term goal of our research is to determine how impaired GABA function in the pre- and postnatal brain leads to lasting neurological changes. The objective of this proposal is to test the potentially transformative hypothesis that dysfunction of specific communication pathways within select circuits during critical windows of development affects brain function and leads to ASD. In the long term, these results may inspire the design of non-invasive diagnostic recording tools to detect abnormal activity patterns in neonates.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…