Emily Parker (Gogos and Peterka labs)
Cortex-wide imaging of calcium dynamics in Setd1a halpoinsufficient mice, relevance for network dysfunction in Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic neuropsychiatric disorder with profound disability that besets ~1% of the global population. SETD1A is a schizophrenia risk gene with high penetrance and the highest statistical support among genes carrying rare variants reported to-date. Cortical neurons from Setd1a+/- mice exhibit decreased axon branching, higher synaptic depression and increased excitability; V1 neurons in Setd1a+/- mice display aberrant activity patterns at the neuronal ensemble level. I utilize wide-field optical mapping to track Ca2+ dynamics in superficial mouse cortex to test (i) if Setd1a mutations decrease effective fronto-temporal connectivity during resting state or sensory tasks and (ii) if these aberrations are rescued by genetic or pharmacological restoration of Setd1a activity in the adult brain, to obtain greater insight about mechanisms underlying increased SCZ risk due to Setd1a deficiency and help translate these findings to novel treatments to ultimately improve outcomes in schizophrenia.
Daniel Hooper (Woolley Lab)
Evidence of genetic constraint on vocal learning ability in songbirds
The songs of oscine songbirds have classically been used to examine the behavioral, neural, and genetic mechanisms responsible for vocal learning. In songbirds, song learning is achieved through auditory and vocal motor processes that integrate early life experience with a genetically-determined neural circuitry. To what extent the seemingly open-ended nature of song learning is under genetic constraint remains an open question. We examine this question using normal-reared and cross-species foster tutored individuals of three closely-related species of Estrildid finch (family Estrildidae) and their F1 hybrid offspring. We compare differences between groups in the acoustic features (syllables) and the temporal patterns (syntax) of their songs. We use this multi-species cross-foster tutoring and hybridization scheme to disentangle the respective limits to song learning and production brought about by a bird’s early learning experience and their genetic ancestry.