The sensory stimuli we experience throughout life generate neuronal activity in the brain, shaping our perception of reality and social interactions. A fundamental property of the mammalian brain is its ability to dynamically change over multiple time scales reshaping our perception throughout life. Yet, the mechanisms of experience dependent remodeling (plasticity) of neuronal circuits and their relation to altered perception and behavior remains unclear. Of all brain structures, the neocortex is arguably the most critical to what makes us human. This is a paradox, because the basic local architecture of the neocortex in all mammals, from mouse to man, appears to be similarly organized according to common principles of synaptic connectivity. But how stable is synaptic connectivity throughout life? Plasticity in the adult neocortex is triggered by modifications of sensory input, which alter the level and pattern of activity in cortical circuits. This process is vital for storing and retrieving new information.
In our lab, we focus of the following questions: 'How natural life experiences modify synaptic connectivity of cortical circuits?' and 'How does the neocortex store specific information relating to species-specific natural behaviors in adulthood?'
To answer these questions our research group develops and implements a combination of imaging, electrophysiological and optical stimulation techniques to study synaptic plasticity in various cortical circuits in the adult brain. One of the main paradigms we study is the natural life experience of becoming a parent. Specifically, we study how the transition to parenthood reshapes the functional connectivity at cortical circuits processing newborn's auditory and olfactory cues and how these changes affect the formation of parental behavior. Our aim is to reveal how functional rewiring of cortical circuits modifies sensory processing and thus perception, addressing the fundamental elements of learning and memory.