Dorothy J Killam Lecture - Keeping your Brain in Balance: the Ups and Downs of Homeostatic Plasticity


3801 University, suite 684, Montreal, QC, H3A 2B4, CA


The Neuro's DJK Lecture was established in 2004 to recognize women of influence in business, science, politics or the humanities.

Speaker: Gina Turrigiano, PhD

Professor, Department of Biology, Brandeis University, USA

Abstract: Our brains must generate and maintain stable activity patterns over decades of life, despite the dramatic changes in circuit connectivity and function induced by learning and experience-dependent plasticity. How do our brains acheive this balance between opposing need for plasticity and stability? Over the past two decades, we and others have uncovered a family of “homeostatic” negative feedback mechanisms that are theorized to stabilize overall brain activity while allowing specific connections to be reconfigured by experience. Here I discuss recent work in which we demonstrate that individual neocortical neurons in freely behaving animals indeed have a homeostatic activity set-point, to which they return in the face of perturbations. Intriguingly, this firing rate homeostasis is gated by sleep/wake states in a manner that depends on the direction of homeostatic regulation: upward-firing rate homeostasis occurs selectively during periods of active wake, while downward-firing rate homeostasis occurs selectively during periods of sleep, suggesting that an important function of sleep is to temporally segregate bidirectional plasticity. Finally, we show that firing rate homeostasis is compromised in an animal model of autism spectrum disorder. Together our findings suggest that loss of homeostatic plasticity in some neurological disorders may render central circuits unable to compensate for the normal perturbations induced by development and learning.

Registration is available here

Bio: Gina Turrigiano received her BA from Reed College in 1984 and her Ph.D. from UC San Diego in 1990. She trained as a postdoc with Eve Marder at Brandeis University before joining the faculty in 1994, where she is now the Levitan Professor of Vision Science in the Department of Biology. Her work has focused on identifying the cellular and circuit mechanisms that stabilize neural circuit function, especially the discovery and characterization of homeostatic forms of synaptic and intrinsic plasticity. She has received numerous awards for this research, including a MacArthur fellowship, an NIH director’s pioneer award, and the HFSP Nakasone Award. She is a fellow of AAAS and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Contact Information

Sasha Kelly
Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital
sasha.kelly [at]
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