The human brain can do many amazing things. It can create ideas, feel emotions, store memories, and experience sensations. And it does all of these things primarily with the neurons and synapses in the outer layer of the brain known as the cerebral cortex.
To achieve these feats, the cortex contains specialized regions and circuits for processing and integrating different kinds of sensory information. How do these cortical circuits form, and what happens if the process goes awry?
Dr. Gek-Ming Sia's lab is interested in these questions. Specifically, we study the molecular and cellular mechanisms that direct the formation of cortical circuits, and how defects in this process lead to neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.
We primarily use the mouse animal model, utilizing biochemical, cell biological, electrophysiological and imaging techniques to study how mouse neurons develop and form synaptic connections with each other.
We also create and use knockout and transgenic mouse models with neurodevelopmental phenotypes, and examine how specific molecular perturbations lead to wiring and behavioral changes in the mouse.
Through this work, we hope to improve our understanding of brain development, and develop novel therapies for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Sia, GM., Clem, R. and Huganir, RL. (2013) The human language-associated gene SRPX2 regulates synapse formation and vocalization in mice.Science. 342(6161):987-91