Developmental mechanisms of motor network tuning
Dr Matthias Landgraf
University of Cambridge
Prof Richard Baines
University of Manchester
Developing neural circuits are reliant on activity for appropriate development. Abnormal activity levels are believed to produce errors in development that can be ‘locked-in’ contributing to diseases such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia. While activity is required through much of neural circuit development, periods of heightened plasticity, called critical periods, during which activity has the largest effect have been identified. How activity tunes a developing neural circuit and the specific events that occur during a critical period, are poorly understood. The potential for neural circuits to rectify errors induced by altered activity during development is also unknown.
We will examine these processes in the larvae of the fruitfly Drosophila. Its nervous system forms within a few hours, it has a defined developmental timeline and exhibits critical periods. The tractability of this insect nervous system will allow us to identify how activity refines the development of a neural circuit to ensure appropriate function.
Our findings will give us insight into the early development of diseases such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia.