Neuromodulation of Cortical Plasticity


Sensory experience alters the functional organization of cortical networks. Previous studies using behavioral training motivated by aversive or rewarding stimuli have demonstrated that cortical plasticity is specific to salient inputs in the sensory environment. Sensory experience associated with electrical activation of the nucleus basalis (NB) generates similar input specific plasticity. By directly engaging plasticity mechanisms and avoiding extensive behavioral training, NB stimulation makes it possible to efficiently explore how specific sensory features contribute to cortical plasticity. Our recent experiments have documented that cortical networks employ a variety of distinct strategies to improve the representation of the sensory environment. Different combinations of receptive field, temporal, and spectrotemporal plasticity were generated in primary auditory cortex neurons depending on the pitch, modulation rate and order of sounds paired with NB stimulation. Simple tones led to map expansion, while modulated tones altered the maximum cortical following rate. Exposure to complex acoustic sequences led to the development of combination sensitive responses. This remodeling of cortical response characteristics may reflect changes in intrinsic cellular mechanisms, synaptic efficacy, and local neuronal connectivity. The intricate relationship between the pattern of sensory activation and cortical plasticity suggests that network-level rules alter the functional organization of cortex to generate the most behaviorally useful representation of the sensory environment.

Current treatment of neurological disease is limited to pharmacological, surgical, or behavioral intervention. Our ability to influence cortical plasticity by manipulating the sensory environment suggests that it may be possible to similarly manipulate plasticity mechanisms in human patients and aid recovery from brain damage.


        Targeting neural plasticity to treat disease

        Scientific American article describing this research

        Frequency Map Reorganization

        Plasticity of the Rate of Auditory Processing

        Development of Sequence Sensitive Responses

        Preference for FM Sweep Direction and Rate

        Refinement of the Distributed Response to Human and Animal Vocalizations

        Experience-Dependent Changes in Cortical Synchronization


        Long-Term Project Aims

Description: brain_smallDescription: CA1