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

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a…