The neuronal circuits that underlie higher brain function are created and refined early in life. Since early life experiences strongly influence the circuit maturation process, every single person is subject to the lifelong impact of their neonatal sensory environment. My research investigates when and how specific neuronal circuits form and the impact of sensory experience on circuit maturation. Ultimately, understanding these developmental processes will lead to optimal design of neonatal care and targeted intervention in neuro-developmental diseases, such as autism.
My research brings together fine-scale analysis of synapses and broad-scale understanding of the neuronal networks that they form. This approach allows direct and detailed measurement of the role of synaptic plasticity in driving circuit maturation. I use high resolution optical (2-photon) stimulation and recording combined with molecular, genetic and electrophysiological methods to analyse rapid, developmental changes in defined, local circuits of the rodent somatosensory cortex. These cutting-edge approaches will underpin projects investigating synaptic mechanisms driving the earliest circuit formation, network properties underlying pathological circuit formation and interventions designed to aid functional recovery of circuitry damaged by sensory perturbation.
Having recently returned to Europe following a successful postdoctoral position in the USA, I am now building my new, independent research group at the University of Bristol, UK. My successful re-integration into the European research community will allow me to transfer my skills, build my own research group, help train the next generation of research scientists and contribute important biological findings that will impact subsequent research and, ultimately, help shape our approach to managing neurological health.
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