Neural Plasticity / Motor Learning
Erna Vanniekerk, Assistant Project Scientist
Alan Nagahara, Senior Specialist
The Brain Plasticity Research Group explores the innate ability of the adult brain to undergo structural and functional adaptation as a result of experience. These “plastic” alterations are essential substrates underlying the ability of the adult brain to learn, to adapt to changing conditions in the environment, and to compensate for damage to the brain.
Understanding these mechanisms may provide a foundation for enhancing compensatory changes in anatomy and electrophysiology after brain injury or during the course of aging. This group explores brain plasticity in the adult through the use of RNA sequencing, epigenetic analyses, changes in cortical neuron structure, electrophysiology and behavior.
Current plasticity projects include: 1) an examination of structural and electrophysiological changes that occur in neurons as a result of learning a new motor task; 2) the role of cholinergic systems in modulating cortical plasticity at electrophysiological and functional levels; and 3) the importance of growth factor expression and trafficking in modulating cortical plasticity during normal learning and memory.