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Sounding Out Neuronal Diversity in the Auditory System

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Air date: Monday, December 2, 2019, 12:00:00 PM
Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local
Views: Total views: 58, (26 Live, 32 On-demand)
Category: Neuroscience
Runtime: 01:08:58
Description: Robert Newcomb Memorial Lecture, NIH Neuroscience Series Seminar

Dr. Goodrich’s lab studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the assembly of neural circuits, from the differentiation of neurons to the formation and maintenance of axonal connections and ultimately the generation of behavior. Their overarching goal is to understand how essentially generic developmental events are coordinated so that each type of neuron acquires the uniquely specialized properties that underlie mature circuit function. Many of their studies focus on the auditory system, which is poorly understood relative to the other sensory systems, despite the obvious impact of age-related and noise-induced hearing loss on our society. Additional insights come from studies of the retina, where amacrine cells exhibit diverse shapes and patterns of connections that influence how visual information is processed.

Auditory circuit assembly and function: We perceive sound using precisely wired circuits that originate in the cochlea of the inner ear. The primary auditory neurons – the spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) – exhibit several distinctive features that ensure that sound information is faithfully communicated from the ear to the brain. For instance, each SGN elaborates enormous and unusually rapid synapses that are critical for sound localization. To learn how spiral ganglion neurons acquire these unique properties, they are dissecting the functions of SGN-specific molecules and transcriptional networks and the contribution of peripheral glia and central input to auditory function. By combining next-gen sequencing technology, live imaging, and behavioral analyses with mouse genetics to visualize and access spiral ganglion neurons, they can link cellular and molecular changes in auditory circuits to functional changes in auditory perception.

Neuronal morphogenesis and wiring in the retina: Unlike the cochlea, the eye houses a complex array of neurons that mediate our sense of vision. The varied morphologies and connectivity of amacrine cells in particular modulate the flow of visual information from photoreceptors to ganglion cells via dendrites restricted to the inner plexiform layer. Since this unipolar morphology is critical to amacrine cell function, they are interested in how this morphology is acquired. They have shown that reliable formation of this unipolar morphology depends on the atypical cadherin Fat3. Ongoing studies will unravel the cellular and molecular events that are mediated by Fat3: what are the activators and effectors of Fat3? What are the cellular events that ensure development of a single apical dendrite? They address these questions using a combination of biochemistry, live imaging, and mouse genetics.

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Author: Lisa Goodrich, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
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CIT Live ID: 35360
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