We combine genetic, molecular, imaging and physiological approaches to study how experiences induce changes in neural network connectivity
What are the neural mechanisms of brain plasticity?
How do physical changes in the mammalian brain manifest into new skills, memories and percepts?
By studying the cellular mechanisms of neural plasticity and identifying new genes regulating such processes, our lab tackles these challenging questions of modern neuroscience.
The lab has been awarded an $800,000, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the role of Cholecystokinin (CCK) inhibitory neuron plasticity in controlling hippocampal function. Building on the work published by our lab (Feng et al., 2021; Rukundo et al., 2022), our goal is to determine the contribution of CCK inhibitory neurons to the inhibitory microcircuits within the dentate gyrus. We aim to elucidate how, throughout development, experiences shape these inhibitory microcircuits and fine-tune the output of the hippocampal circuit. We believe that this developmental plasticity is key to improving memory performance and sensory processing during adolescence.
Rukundo and Ting Feng, co-first authors of this paper. Together, they demonstrate that early environmental enrichment—raising mice in environments with increased social, cognitive, and sensory stimuli—has a limited effect on dentate gyrus function, as seen with the recruitment of local granule cell activity and memory discrimination. However, our electrophysiology assays demonstrate that the enriched environment induces changes in how information is processed within the circuit. Building upon our previous work on enriched environments (Feng et al., 2021), our findings support a plasticity mechanism whereby remodeling of the inhibitory and excitatory synapse induce changes in the computations performed by the circuit. More needs to be done to determine the nature of the computations that are affected by this plasticity and how it affects animal behavior.
Very excited about our publication in the Journal of Neuroscience. We show that early life experience induces the plasticity of a specific type of interneuron in the hippocampus, the cholecystokinin-expressing cells, which in turn, leads to a change in cannabinoid-mediated inhibition in the circuit.
Located at the University of Nevada, Reno, our lab is near scenic lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas