Our research team runs several related projects studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the development of axonal connections in the brain. In particular, our aim is to uncover the principles underlying thalamocortical axonal wiring, maintenance and ultimately the rewiring of connections, through an integrated and innovative experimental programme.
The development of the thalamocortical wiring requires a precise topographical sorting of its connections. Each thalamic nucleus receives specific sensory information from the environment and projects topographically to its corresponding cortical. A second level of organization is achieved within each area, where thalamocortical connections display an intra-areal topographical organization, allowing the generation of accurate spatial representations within each cortical area. Therefore, the level of organization and specificity of the thalamocortical projections is much more complex than other projection systems in the CNS. The central hypothesis of our laboratory is that thalamocortical wiring influences and maintains the functional architecture of the brain. We also believe that rewiring and plasticity events can be triggered by activity-dependent mechanisms in the thalamus.
Three major questions are been focused in the laboratory: i) the transcriptional control of thalamocortical topography; ii) integration of distinct signalling pathways in thalamocortical behaviour; and iii) the activity-dependent mechanisms involved in thalamocortical guidance and wiring. Within these projects we are using several experimental programmes, these include: optical imaging, manipulation of gene expression in vivo, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, cell culture and electrophysiology. Furthermore, our team has successfully set up the technique of in utero electroporation to specifically target dorsal thalamic neurons in vivo. We have also used gain- and loss-of-function experiments to help unravel new mechanisms involved in the guidance of this major axonal tract (see PLoS Biology 7, e98 (2009), J Neurosci 27, 3395-407 (2007), Cell 125, 127-42 (2006), Nat Rev Neurosci 4, 276-8 (2003)).
We expect that the results derived from our investigations will contribute to our understating of how reprogramming of cortical wiring takes place following brain damage and how cortical structure is maintained.
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2012 EMBO Young Investigator Award
2011 OLYMPUS Young Investigator Award
2009 ERC Starting Grant
2003 Merit Award in Science for Postdoctoral Fellows from the Department of Human Anatomy & Genetics, Oxford University (UK)