Julie Kauer, Brown University, Providence, USA
Thomas Sudhof, Stanford University, USA
Dominique Muller, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Scott Thompson, University of Maryland, USA
Lu Chen, Stanford University, USA
Jane Sullivan, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Pico Caroni, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
Activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength and connectivity play critical roles in all forms of adaptive and pathological experience-dependent plasticity. Long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity, termed long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), occur throughout the mammalian brain and contribute to the neural circuit modifications underlying all forms of learning and memory as well as the pathological neural circuit adaptations that underlie brain disorders such as addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Dysfunction of various forms of synaptic plasticity also likely contribute to brain disorders as diverse as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Thus an important goal of neuroscience research is to elucidate the mechanisms and functions of different forms of synaptic plasticity and how these contribute to the neural circuit modifications underlying experience-dependent plasticity.
The Course will provide a comprehensive review of the mechanisms underlying the major forms of synaptic plasticity in the mammalian brain and how these contribute to neural circuit remodeling. Topics will include: (1) the basic molecular architecture and mechanisms underlying excitatory synaptic function, (2) a description of the properties of the major forms of synaptic plasticity and the brain areas in which they are prominently featured, (3) the molecular mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter release and forms of short-term presynaptic plasticity, (4) the molecular mechanisms underlying NMDA receptor-dependent LTP and LTD with a focus on the trafficking of AMPA receptors, (5) the role of synaptic cell adhesion proteins in synaptic function and dysfunction, (6) the mechanisms and possible functions of homeostatic synaptic scaling, (7) the structural changes that occur at excitatory synapses during synaptic plasticity and the molecular mechanisms underlying these, (8) the structural changes in circuits that can occur in response to chronic changes in neural activity.
The Faculties are world experts on these topics and will guide participants through a critical evaluation of the literature emphasizing what is known and well accepted versus the key questions that have yet to be answered. There will be ample opportunity for questions and critical discussion. Examples of how synaptic plasticity mechanisms contribute both to adaptive forms of experience-dependent plasticity as well as prominent brain disorders will be provided.
The Course is thus designed not only to introduce participants to the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and their contribution to adaptive forms of experience-dependent plasticity, but also to provide an intellectual framework upon which future studies can be built across all areas of basic and clinical neuroscience research. The understanding of synaptic plasticity mechanisms have far-reaching implications for elucidating the pathophysiology of major neuropsychiatric disorders as well as the development of novel therapeutic agents and approaches. The collegial atmosphere with structured discussion sessions and opportunities for informal afternoon and evening gatherings will make the Course a memorable venue for all attendees.