A part of the Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Department (MCDB) at UCLA and the Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences (QCBio), we study the mechanisms that shape the earliest neuronal circuits to form during development.
Neurons are highly dynamics cells who produce complex networks of connections. These circuits are continuously refined by developmental events and in response to new experiences, but how do neuronal circuits first acquire their function at the point where none previously existed? What mechanisms then allow a nascent circuit to refine its connectivity and activity to produce coordinated output?
We are exploring these questions using the embryo of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model. With a combination of methods drawn from classical genetics, the state-of-the-art in quantitative imaging, and new approaches to manipulating single cells in vivo, we are mapping the emergence of functional circuitry in the embryo. While cell adhesion molecules and morphogen gradients may teach us how to ‘wire’ a brain, we are working to understand how to ‘boot’ one up.