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URPP Adaptive Brain Circuits in Development and Learning (AdaBD)


Learning new behaviors is essential both during child development and as adults. Consequently, deficits in learning have a large impact on the affected individuals, their families, and society.

Development and learning require specific adaptations in neural circuit structure and function, which are still not well understood. We want to disentangle them under normal and disease conditions. Besides revealing physiological processes, we aim to establish causal links between learning deficits or developmental delay and impaired mechanisms of brain circuit adaptation. We aim to uncover molecular mechanisms and to identify mutations affecting circuit formation and multi-sensory processing. Finally, we aim to translate new insights from our research to the clinic and to develop new diagnostic tools as well as innovative treatment strategies.

The URPP AdaBD is establishing four PLATFORMS and PLATFORM SEEDS that support URPP researchers in high-resolution microscopy, high-dimensional data analysis, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-based models for neuroscience, and in identifying subtypes of developmental deficits as well as in recruiting study participants. Further, we started several research projects covering three main research paths:

PATH 1: From molecules to behavior
will focus on how neural circuits emerge and how their functions are established in health and disease.

PATH 2: From behavior to molecules
will take the opposite route, starting from studies of circuit dynamics in behaving animals, especially during multi-sensory learning. Then, we will work our way down to specific circuit elements, even sets of genes, which are associated with developmental delay and learning deficits.

PATH 3: From humans to animals and back
will bridge results from animal models to humans by comparing network activity in coordinately-designed behavioral tasks. We aim to translate results from animal studies to human brain circuits by devising specific tests for children with general developmental delay allowing for improved diagnosis and interventions.