MAR 11, 2020 7:30 AM PDT

PANEL: Neuronal Circuit Resilience - How the Brain Manages to Maintain Reliable Behaviors with Unreliable Neurons

  • Adrienne Fairhall, PhD

    Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and adjunct in the Departments of Physics and Applied Mathematics, University of Washington
  • Tim Gardner

    Associate Professor and Robert and Leona Chair in Neuroengineering at the Knight Campus, University of Oregon
  • Carlos Lois, MD, PhD

    Research Professor in Neurobiology at the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, Caltech


Brain function is remarkably reliable despite the imprecise performance of neurons and the continuous perturbations caused by aging, disease or injury. How does the brain succeed in producing stereotypic behaviors over long periods of time despite these perturbations? We are interested in studying the cellular and system mechanisms by which neuronal circuits are able to "self-tune" and adapt to perturbations.  We are using genetic manipulations to perturb brain circuits to ask two types of questions: (i) how do brain circuits adapt when a large percentage of their neurons are deleted or silenced?, (ii) how do brain circuits adapt when electrical noise is injected into the system?.  To study these questions we are focusing on the song circuits of birds because song is an extremely stereotypical behavior that can be rigorously measured.

Learning Objectives:

1. Define the concepts of brain resilience and behavioral stereotypy

2. Explain the experimental methods that can be used to investigate brain resilience

3. Explain how investigating mechanisms of brain resilience in animals could be useful to improve outcomes in humans after diseases such as stroke

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