Carlos Lois MD, PhD
|Institution||University of Massachusetts Medical School|
|Address||University of Massachusetts Medical School|
364 Plantation Street, LRB
Worcester MA 01605
|Institution||UMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences|
ASSEMBLY OF BRAIN CIRCUITS AND THE CELLULAR MECHANISMS OF BEHAVIOR
Our laboratory studies the assembly of neuronal circuits and the mechanisms by which brain circuits give rise to behavior. We focus on the process of neuron addition into the brain of vertebrates, and seek to understand how new neurons integrate into the circuits of the adult brain, and their role in information processing and storage. To address these questions our laboratory develops new technologies to genetically manipulate the development and biophysical properties of neurons. To investigate how behavior arises from the activity of neurons in brain circuits, we are generating transgenic songbirds to manipulate key genes involved in the assembly of circuits that mediate vocal learning behavior.
Regulation of neuronal integration into brain circuits.
The brain of adult vertebrates harbors a population of neuronal stem cells that continues to proliferate throughout the life of the animal, and whose progeny migrate through the brain, differentiate into neurons, and establish synaptic contacts with other neurons in the circuit. We are interested in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the integration of these neurons into neuronal circuits. We are investigating the mechanisms that neurons use to adapt their intrinsic and synaptic properties as they integrate into circuits and communicate with other neurons. To study the role of electrical and synaptic activity on neuronal integration we have developed new tools to manipulate the biophysical properties of neurons by genetically modifying the activity of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors.
Genetic control of the assembly of circuits involved in vocal learning.
Vocal learning depends on the ability of brain circuits to perceive and imitate sound sequences and use these sequences for communication. Songbirds such as zebra finches have been a favorite experimental system for the study of vocal learning in animals for decades. These animals exhibit a robust and spontaneous vocal learning behavior, and they have dedicated brain circuits, known as the song system, that participate in the learning and production of song. Recently, my laboratory has succeeded in the development of a series of techniques that allow us to genetically modify the brain of songbirds. These technical advances open new opportunities for the study of the relationship between genes and learning in an animal species with a robust behavioral repertoire. We are currently generating transgenic songbirds to manipulate key genes involved in the assembly of circuits involved in vocal learning behavior.
Figure 1: Genetic manipulation of the electrical properties of neurons.
Newly neurons (green) adult mice are rendered hyperexcitable by delivering into them Nachbac, a voltage-gated sodium channel, via recombinant retroviruses. By genetically controlling the electrical properties of neurons we investigate how neuronal activity regulates the integration of cells into brain circuits, and the connections between neurons.
Figure 2: Stem cells are committed to the production of neurons with defined connectivity.
Stem cells located are committed to generate the same neuronal type (granule cells in the olfactory bulb) with defined connectivity. Our laboratory is currently investigating the molecules that regulate the patterns of connectivity of neurons in this brain region.
Figure 3: Genetically modified songbirds to investigate the molecular bases of vocal learning and complex behavior.
Our lab has recently developed new genetic methods that have allowed us to generate transgenic songbirds to investigate the genetic basis of the assembly of brain circuits involved in vocal communication. We are using these transgenic songbirds to investigate the rules by which neurons migrate, choose their final locations, establish connections with each other, and give rise to behavior.
Our laboratory uses tools of molecular biology, cell biology and electrophysiology to investigate the assembly of brain circuits. Two rotation projects are available:
1) to explore the role of neuronal activity on the migration and formation of synapses
2) to design a transsynaptic genetic system to elucidate the wiring diagram of brain circuits.
Postdoctoral position in electrophysiology
We are seeking a highly motivated individual to work on a research project focused on the assembly and wiring of brain circuits. The research combines techniques in electrophysiology, molecular biology, neuroanatomy, virology, and transgenesis in rodents. Applicants with experience in electrophysiology who are motivated for developing careers as independent investigators, are especially encouraged.
A Ph.D. in neuroscience or a related field is required and candidates should have a record of research excellence demonstrated by publication. Experience with electrophysiological recordings in vivo or in slices is required.
Postdoctoral position in developmental neuroscience
We are seeking a highly motivated individual to work on a research project focused on the assembly and wiring of brain circuits. The research combines techniques in electrophysiology, molecular biology, neuroanatomy, virology, and transgenesis in rodents. Applicants with experience in molecular or cell biology who are motivated for developing careers as independent investigators, are especially encouraged.
A Ph.D. in neuroscience or a related field is required and candidates should have a record of research excellence demonstrated by publication. Expertise in molecular biology, cell biology and/or neuroscience is required.
Two postdoctoral positions are available to study in this laboratory.
For assistance with using Profiles, please refer to the online tutorials
or contact UMMS Help Desk
or call 508-856-8643.
Click the "See All" links for more information and interactive visualizations!
People who are also in this person's primary department.