On 14th January 2014 a mini Symposium organised by Andrew King and Zoltán Molnár served as the first joint cluster meeting between the systems and cellular neuroscience groups of the DPAG. The meeting covered a wide range of topics focussed around "Mammalian cerebral cortical circuits".
During development cortical neurons are generated, migrate into position and start to establish specific connections that are further shaped through the interaction with the environment. In particular during critical periods of cortical development, sensory experience shapes the refinement of connections in the brain but after this period only limited remodelling (plasticity) is possible. Altered development during cortical neurogenesis, migration or altered sensory experience during the critical period can lead to abnormal wiring of the brain.
The joint cluster meeting brought together groups who are experts in the field of cerebral cortical circuit formation and plasticity in mammals. Their expertise extends from neurogenesis and neuronal migration to the establishment and plasticity of connections. These groups use various techniques: laser-scanning photo stimulation, 2-photon microscopy, confocal microscopy, electrophysiology and behavioural testing. Their aim is to understand how mammalian cortical neurons control cortical development and plasticity and how they are integrated into functional cortical circuitry responsible for some of the most sophisticated sensory and motor processing.
The cluster meeting was linked to the visit of Professor Anne Mc Kinney, Vice Chair of McGill's Brain Institute, who delivered a keynote lecture on "Dendritic spines, autism and epilepsy”. Her laboratory has made a great contribution to the insights into synapse maintenance and plasticity in the mammalian cerebral cortex and hippocampus.
The symposium gave an excellent opportunity to continue to build links between McGill and Oxford Neuroscience.
Chris Kennard Anne McKinney and Zoltán Molnár