Synapse and Network Development

The development of specific synaptic connections between nerve cells is a fundamental step during the maturation of the brain, but its underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. To investigate how neurons establish specific connections, we apply high resolution imaging and electrophysiology in brain slices and in vivo.

Our goal is to identify patterns of neuronal activity, forms of calcium signaling and molecular factors that regulate synapse development. We focus on the local regulation of synapse maturation and its relationship with activity patterns in the entire cell and the emerging network.

News

5.2.2013

The SND group receives an NWO VICI grant for the project ”Preparing the brain for vision: how spontaneous activity wires the developing visual system before eye opening".

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26.6.2012

The SND group receives an NWO-ALW Open Program grant of 267.000.- euro for the project ”Plasticity mechanisms for connecting developing neurons with subcellular precision”.

We have found recently that developing neurons are connected with unexpected precision. Synaptic activity itself is required for this fine-scale connectivity to develop; however, the mechanisms behind these activity-dependent processes are unknown. Now, we will use an unbiased screen for novel forms of plasticity on the level of individual synapses to identify the rules for plasticity driven by spontaneous activity. Our experiments will be pivotal to understanding how individual neurons are connected into the emerging network to perform high level data operations. Therefore, we may also be able to explain how errors in synapse development that occur in neurodevelopmental diseases compromise the computational power of individual neurons and, in turn, cognitive functions.

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