Les règles d'apprentissage synaptique dans le cervelet et leur perturbation due au syndrome de l'X fragile

 

Aparna Suvrathan

Institut de recherche du Centre universitaire de santé McGill

 

Domaine : neurosciences, santé mentale et toxicomanies

Programme Chercheurs-boursiers - Junior 1

Concours 2019-2020

Neurons in the brain communicate with each other through specialized sites of contact known as synapses. Synapses are remarkably flexible, with the capacity to change their strength. This flexibility, referred to as synaptic plasticity, supports the formation of new memories and learned behavior. However, much remains unknown about how some synapses, and not others, are modified to encode a learned behavior. Our research aims to understand the principles that determine when, where and how synapses are modified during learning, and how these principles are perturbed under conditions of disease. 

In order to achieve this goal, we investigate a region of the brain known as the cerebellum. The cerebellum supports simple and precise forms of movement learning, which can easily be investigated in animals. In addition, the neural circuitry of the cerebellum is well-understood, making this a perfect system in which to investigate synaptic plasticity and its relationship to learning. We will determine whether and how we can modify synaptic plasticity; a result which will have major implications for restoring plasticity under conditions of disease or injury.

Building upon the framework of understanding plasticity in the healthy brain, we aim to determine how deficits in plasticity contribute to the symptoms of a common form of intellectual impairment and autism, Fragile X syndrome. We will also extend our understanding of how the cerebellum is impacted in disease by determining perturbations in plasticity in response to stress. Our results will inform future therapeutic strategies to modify or recover neural plasticity.