Carla Jo Shatz
Research centers on how brain circuits are tuned up by experience during critical periods of development. By studying the visual system of mammals, we discovered that adult wiring emerges from dynamic interactions between neurons requiring neural activity. In turn, neural activity regulates expression of genes needed for circuit tuning. To discover cell and molecular underpinnings of circuit tuning, functional screens have been carried out. Among these genes is the MHC (major histocompatibility) Class I family- previously not thought to be expressed by neurons at all. Other MHCI signaling components are also present in neurons, including a novel receptor, PirB. By studying and/or generating knockout mice, the lab is exploring roles for these molecules in synaptic plasticity, learning, memory and neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s. Research has relevance not only for understanding brain wiring and developmental disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia, but also for understanding how nervous and immune systems interact.