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A great deal of brain development happens after birth. During this period, sensory inputs and patterns of activity within the brain drive the refinement of circuits and the formation of synapses. This is well established for parts of the brain that receive signals from the outside world, such as sensory systems. Much less is known about the function of activity in shaping the development of non-sensory and sub-cortical systems. Dr. Sabatini will show that activity in a recurrent loop between the basal ganglia and cortex acts in a self-reinforcing manner. Thus manipulations that promote the activity of the direct pathway through the basal ganglia, and hence activate cortex, lead to greater innervation of the basal ganglia. His lab proposes that such self-reinforcing systems ensure the correct wiring of sub-cortical systems that lack the stereotyped topographic organization of sensory systems. Lastly, his lab proposes that early perturbations of such mechanisms can contribute to developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series includes weekly scientific talks by some of the top researchers in the biomedical sciences worldwide.