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Labs & Projects ■ Molecular Neurobiology

Molecular Neurobiology

Molecular-NeurobiologyThe major and most distinctive feature of the nervous system is plasticity, i.e. the astonishing ability to adapt to the environment and to improve performance over time and experience.

Since the neural changes evoked by the stimuli can persist for very long times, virtually for the whole life of the individual, it seems clear that neural plasticity represents the basis of the higher brain functions such as learning and memory or, conversely, that the built-in property of neural plasticity allows experience to shape both functionally and structurally the nervous system.

The first assembly of neuronal networks is driven by genetic factors, i.e. by the size of the physiological targets and the expression of chemotactic and/or cell adhesion "recognition" proteins whose genes are specifically transcribed and translated by the various neuronal populations.

One of the earliest steps in the development of the central nervous system is the initiation of axon outgrowth from newborn neurons. Nascent axons navigate towards their specific targets and make synaptic connections with them, creating the intricate network found within the mature central nervous system. IA variety of molecular navigational systems governing axon pathfinding have now been identified. Understanding how these individual molecular axon guidance systems operate at the level of a single axon, and how these systems work in concert to initiate and steer axonal migration is a major goal in neurobiology.

It has been shown that neuronal networks are capable of adaptation and learning, although a thorough study of circuit activity has been hindered by the complexity of mammalian networks. This process is based on complex activity-dependent changes in neurons that modulate the ability of the neural network to transfer, elaborate and store information.

We intend to clarify the mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission and plasticity in random and artificial networks of live neurons with the purpose of understanding the changes in the information flow and processing involved in higher brain functions.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 16:47


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