The diverse functions of our nervous system depend
on the precise interconnections of millions of neurons. These
connections are made during embryonic and postnatal development, and are
constantly modified by learning, memory and experience.
Many neurodevelopmental diseases and psychiatric disorders are
the results of defects in the initial assembly of neuronal connections.
Laboratories in our department are using a variety of approaches and
animal models to study the genes that regulate these processes in order
to find new ways to repair diseased or damaged neurons and connections
in the human brain and spinal cord. Their studies have identified
factors that control the diversity and survival of neurons, specify
precise neuronal connections, regulate the formation of synapses, and
contribute to activity-dependent synaptic plasticity.