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Prof Kevin Fox  -  PhD


The barrel field of the somatosensory cortex.

The barrel field of the somatosensory cortex.

Mechanisms Underlying Neuronal Plasticity in the Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is most highly developed in humans. It is that part of the brain which gives us our distinctively human qualities. How does the cortex process information and how does it store new information, in other words, how does it remember? We are studying these questions in an area of the brain that processes tactile information. We record neuronal activity and measure the way sensory processing is modified by experience (experience-dependent plasticity). We can test whether particular proteins are necessary for plasticity and recent results show that a major post-synaptic protein known as CAMKII is crucial for plasticity in this area of the cortex. Studies on synaptic plasticity implicate the GluR1 subunit of the AMPA channel and neuronal Nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that makes nitric oxide are responsible for post- and pres-synaptic components of potentiation respectively. We are studying all these questions in an area of the somatosensory cortex known as the Barrel cortex. This area of the brain has been intensively studied over recent years in an effort to understand sensory processing, cortical development and cortical plasticity. More information on barrel cortex can be found in this newly published book.

Cover of book - Barrel CortexWe are also using forward genetic approaches to discover novel molecules involved in plasticity in collaboration with the NIMH funded Conte Centre for Plasticity and Memory, linking Cardiff University, UCLA and UCSF in a three-way collaboration. A short period of experience with a single whisker induces CRE-mediated gene expression in the barrel cortex. Top right: whole mouse brain showing CRE-mediated gene expression in blue using a lacZ reporter gene. Arrows show appearance of a blue dot on the hemisphere contralateral to the spared whisker. Bottom left: propidium iodide shows the location of the barrels in corticallayer IV. Top left: the same section shown at the bottom left, but with transmitted light. The blue stain shows the nuclei of CRE-expressing cells. Bottom right: superimposing the barrel pattern on the picture of the lacZ staining shows that the gene expression is restricted to the barrel corresponding to the spared whisker

A short period of experience with a single whisker induces CRE-mediated gene expression in the barrel cortex. Top right: whole mouse brain showing CRE-mediated gene expression in blue using a lacZ reporter gene. Arrows show appearance of a blue dot on the hemisphere contralateral to the spared whisker. Bottom left: propidium iodide shows the location of the barrels in corticallayer IV. Top left: the same section shown at the bottom left, but with transmitted light. The blue stain shows the nuclei of CRE-expressing cells. Bottom right: superimposing the barrel pattern on the picture of the lacZ staining shows that the gene expression is restricted to the barrel corresponding to the spared whisker.

Active Grants

MRC
Program grant
“Anatomical and molecular pathways for cortical plasticity”

NIH
Conte Centre Grant
“Forward genetic approaches to mechanisms of cortical plasticity”

MRC co-operative grant
“Plasticity learning and memory”

Collaborations

Karel Svoboda
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA

Alcino Silva
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

Michael Stryker
UCSF, San Fransisco, CA

Joshua Trachtenberg
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

Mark Good
Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Frank Sengpiel
Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Affiliated Staff

Neil Hardingham
Nick Wright
James Dachtler
Adam Ransom
Phil Blanning
Vincent Jacob
Stuart Greenhill
John Anderson
Tim Gould
Claire Cheetham