UTD Cortical Plasticity Laboratory

Michael P. Kilgard

Associate Professor

Ph.D., University of California at San Francisco, 1998

    My research interests relate to the general principles that underlie the remarkable self-organizing capability of the cerebral cortex.  The cortex is continually reorganized to optimize its function to match the environment an individual occupies.  Although cellular studies have demonstrated that plasticity mechanisms are dependent on correlation-based rules, we still do not understand the principles that govern how sensory experience alters the distributed responses of thousands of cortical neurons in a behaviorally useful manner.
    Understanding how brain networks self-organize themselves is critically important for the development of new rehabilitation therapies for autism, dyslexia, stroke, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Current treatment of neurological disease is limited to pharmacological, surgical, or behavioral interventions.  Recent experimental advances indicate that it may soon be possible to effectively manipulate plasticity mechanisms in human patients.  Early attempts to develop neuroscience-based therapies have been encouraging.  The primary aim of experiments in my laboratory is to learn how sensory experience and behavioral motivation influence cortical plasticity so that these factors can be manipulated for therapeutic benefit. 
    We are using both environmental enrichment and more targeted behavioral training to study the mechanisms of cortical plasticity.  We are also very interested in the role the cholinergic projection from nucleus basalis plays in guiding cortical plasticity.  Electrical activation of nucleus basalis paired with different sounds causes dramatic reorganization of the rat auditory cortex.  By systematically manipulating features of these sounds we have been able to generate changes in cortical topography, temporal processing, sequence selectivity, and synchronization.  These studies indicate that both emotionally salient stimuli and irrelevant background sounds contribute to cortical organization. 
    We have recently demonstrated that pairing sounds with electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve can generate specific and long lasting plasticity that is indistinguishable from nucleus basalis.  Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is well tolerated in humans and we have recently shown that pairing tones with VNS is sufficient to reverse chronic tinnitus in rats.  We have begun studies to determine whether VNS directed plasticity could be used to treat other conditions.
   We have recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop VNS as a therapy for tinnitus and to study speech sound processing in an animal model of autism.
Video Animations on Targeted Plasticity
Articles in the Press about our Research
Scientific American - The Learning Brain Gets Bigger--Then Smaller
Science Daily - Rebooting the Brain Helps Stop the Ring of Tinnitus in Rats
Washington Examiner - Cure for Tinnitus Has a Nice Ring to It
New England Journal of Medicine - Harnessing Plasticity to Reset Dysfunctional Neurons
Selected Scientific Publications

Cortical map plasticity improves learning but is not necessary for improved performance, Reed A, Riley J, Carraway R, Carrasco A, Perez C, Jakkamsetti V, Kilgard MP, Neuron, 14;70:121-31.


Reversing pathological neural activity using targeted plasticity, Engineer ND, Riley JR, Seale JD, Vrana WA, Shetake JA, Sudanagunta SP, Borland MS, Kilgard MP, Nature, 470:101-4, 2011.


Cortical Activity Patterns Predict Speech Discrimination Ability, Engineer CT, Perez CA, Chen YH,  Carraway RS, Reed AC, Shetake JA, Jakkamsetti V, Chang KQ, Kilgard MP. Nature Neuroscience, 11: 603-608, 2008 (download file, supplemental data, and video).

Sensory Experience Determines Enrichment-Induced Plasticity in Rat Auditory Cortex, Percaccio CR, Pruette AL, Mistry ST, Chen YH, Kilgard MP. Brain Research, 1174:76-91, 2007 (download file).

Spectral and Temporal Processing in Rat Posterior Auditory Cortex.  PK Pandya, DL Rathbun, R Moucha, ND Engineer, MP Kilgard. Cerebral Cortex, 2007. (download file)

Plasticity in the Rat Posterior Auditory Field following Nucleus Basalis Stimulation. Puckett AC, Pandya PK, Moucha R, Dai W, Kilgard MP. Journal of Neurophysiology. 98:253-65, 2007. (download file)

Experience Dependent Plasticity Alters Cortical Synchronization. Kilgard MP, Vazquez JL, Engineer ND, Pandya PK. Hearing Research. 229:171-179, 2007. (download file)

Response to Broadband Repetitive Stimuli in Auditory Cortex of the Unanesthetized Rat. SE Anderson, MP Kilgard, AM Sloan, RL Rennaker, Hearing Research, 2006  (download file).


Environmental Enrichment Increases Paired Pulse Depression in Rat Auditory Cortex. CR Percaccio, ND Engineer, AL Pruette, PK Pandya, R Moucha, DL Rathbun, MP Kilgard, Journal of Neurophysiology, 94:3590-600, 2005 (download file).


Background Sounds Contribute to Spectrotemporal Plasticity In Primary Auditory Cortex. R Moucha, PK Pandya, ND Engineer, DL Rathbun, MP Kilgard. Experimental Brain Research, 162:417-27, 2005 (download file).


Environmental Enrichment Improves Response Strength, Threshold, Selectivity, and Latency of Auditory Cortex Neurons. Engineer ND, Percaccio CR, Pandya PK, Moucha R, Rathbun DL, Kilgard MP.  Journal of  Neurophysiology, 92(1):73-82, 2004 (download file).

Cortical Network Reorganization Guided by Sensory Input Features, M.P. Kilgard, P.K. Pandya, N.D. Engineer, R. Moucha, Biological Cybernetics, 87(5-6):333-43, 2002 (download file).

Order Sensitive Plasticity in Adult Primary Auditory Cortex,  M.P. Kilgard,  M.M. Merzenich, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99: 3205-3209, 2002. (download file)

Sensory Input Directs Spatial and Temporal Plasticity in Primary Auditory Cortex, M.P. Kilgard, P.K. Pandya, J.L. Vazquez, Gehi, A., C.E. Schreiner, M.M. Merzenich, Journal of Neurophysiology, 86: 339-353, 2001. (download file)

Plasticity of Temporal Information Processing in the Primary Auditory Cortex, M.P. Kilgard, M.M. Merzenich, Nature Neuroscience, 1(8): 727-731, 1998. (download file)

Nucleus Basalis Activity Enables Cortical Map Reorganization, M.P. Kilgard, M.M. Merzenich, Science 279(5357): 1714-1718, 1998. (download file)



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