Tallie Baram

Neuroscience Symposium
Gazzola Group

The Neuroscience Symposia are organized weekly by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. The presentations are given by researchers from the institute or by guest speakers.

Colloquium room – Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Guest speaker Valeria Gazzola

Cognitive and emotional brain functions involve coordinated activities of brain circuits that integrate molecular and cellular signaling. Hence, neuropsychiatric disorders may arise from dysfunction of crucial brain circuits, often related to their aberrant maturation. Such dysmaturation originates from an interplay of genes and environment, especially during sensitive developmental periods. Environment-derived sensory signals clearly influence sensory (visual, auditory) circuit maturation via selective synapse strengthening and pruning. Yet, whereas the signals for the sculpting of visual and  auditory circuits are known (light, sound), the signals that influence normal or aberrant maturation of ‘emotional’ and ‘cognitive’ brain circuits remain  unresolved. Early in postnatal life, dominant environmental signals derive from the parent. Indeed, in rodent models, the quantity and qualitative  measures of maternal-derived sensory signals influence cognitive and emotional outcomes. Our novel findings across humans and rodents suggest that patterns of maternal behaviors, and specifically fragmented and unpredictable behavior sequences, are a critical factor influencing brain circuit maturation and resultant behavioral phenotype. Maternal signal patterns modulate the number of functional synapses abutting specific neuronal populations, which suffices to initiate epigenetic programs within these neurons. Notably, the aberrant neuronal and circuit maturation is associated with specific cognitive and emotional problems across species, including spatial memory deficits and anhedonia. Thus, across species, unpredictable sequences of  maternalderived signals disrupt brain-circuit maturation and promote mental vulnerabilities.

4:00 pm – How early-life experiences sculpt brain-circuit maturation, contributing to vulnerabilities to Neuropsychiatric Disorders
5:00 pm – Discussion and drinks