May 28, 2014: Keeping Your Brain in Balance: Do Defects in Neuronal Homeostasis Contribute to Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Date & Time


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May 28, 2014, 4:30-6:30 p.m. EST
Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation
160 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

In this lecture, Gina Turrigiano will describe the plasticity mechanisms that allow our brains to ‘tune themselves up’ and remain both plastic and stable. These mechanisms include a family of ‘homeostatic’ plasticity mechanisms that allow neurons to adjust their excitability to maintain constant firing rates in the face of outside perturbations. Recently, Turrigiano has investigated the role of homeostatic plasticity in the experience-dependent development of the visual cortex, especially how homeostatic mechanisms interact with classical forms of synaptic plasticity to allow experience-dependent circuit refinement. A major goal of Turrigiano’s lab is to determine the molecular and biophysical mechanisms of homeostatic plasticity and use this knowledge to perturb these mechanisms in intact cortex. These studies are generating insights into the normal function of cortical microcircuits and into how the failure of homeostatic plasticity mechanisms might contribute to developmental defects in brain wiring that contribute to autism spectrum disorders.

Gina Turrigiano received her her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. She trained as a postdoc with Eve Marder at Brandeis University before joining the Brandeis faculty in 1994. She is now a full professor in the department of biology, the Volen Center for Complex Systems and the Center for Behavioral Genomics at Brandeis.

Turrigiano has received numerous awards for her research, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) career development award, a Sloan Foundation fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, McKnight Foundation Technological Innovation and Neurobiology of Disease awards, an NIH director’s pioneer award, the HFSP Nakasone Award, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and election to the National Academy of Sciences. Her scientific interests include mechanisms of synaptic and intrinsic plasticity and the experience-dependent refinement of neocortical microcircuitry.

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