Current Research

The neocortex is important for motor control, sensory processing and the generation of conscious thought. A hallmark of the neocortex is its organization into circuit modules that consist of precise and stereotyped patterns of connections between populations of neurons. The arrangements of these highly conserved circuits allow populations of neurons to coordinate a wide range of sensory and motor functions that underlie complex cognitive behavior. The mission of our lab is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that guide the development of synaptic connections in the neocortex. Our lab also focuses on identifying the neural circuits underlying social and cognitive functions. In our research we use different models to understand the pathobiology of neurodevelopmental disorders and to develop optimal pharmacological treatments for these disorders. The systems neuroscience approaches that we use to characterize circuit properties in combination with behavioral paradigms provide a powerful way to study the relationship between circuit dysfunction and abnormalities in cognitive-relevant behaviors. Some of the tools and techniques we are currently using in the lab are multiplex fluorescent in situ hybridization, gene transfer techniques, in vivo two-photon (2P) imaging of spine dynamics and ensemble activity, in vitro slice electrophysiology with optogenetics and rabies transsynaptic mapping. Many studies have shown that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Disorders affecting children may include anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. We hope our studies will bring insights into the basic mechanisms of the developmental wiring of the brain and a better understanding of the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Selected Publications

  • Cruz-Martín A, El-Danaf RN, Osakada F, Sriram B, Ghosh A, Dhande O, Nguyen P, Huberman AD (2014) A dedicated circuit linking direction-selective retinal ganglion cells to primary visual cortex. Nature 507 (7492), 358-361
  • Cruz-Martín A, Crespo M, Portera-Cailliau C (2012) Glutamate induces the elongation of early dendritic protrusions via mGluRs in wild type mice, but not in fragile X mice. PLoS One. 7(2): e32446 Epub 2012 Feb 27
  • Cruz-Martín A, Crespo M, Portera-Cailliau C (2010) Delayed stabilization of dendritic spines in fragile X mice. J Neurosci. Jun; 30: 7793–7803
  • Chowdhury T, Jimenez JC, Bomar J, Cruz-Martín A, Cantle JP, Portera-Cailliau C(2010) Fate of Cajal-Retzius neurons in the postnatal mouse neocortex. Front in Neuroanat. Mar 3; 4: 10 doi: 10.3389/neuro.05.010.2010
  • Cruz-Martín A, Portera-Cailliau C (2010) In Vivo Imaging of Axonal and Dendritic Structures in Developing Cortex. In Imaging in Developmental Biology: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, doi:10.1101/pdb.prot080150
  • Cruz-Martín A, Schweizer FE (2008) Imbalance between excitation and inhibition among synaptic connections of CA3 pyramidal neurons in cultured hippocampal slices. Eur J Neurosci. Mar; 27(6): 1353-63
  • Sippy T, Cruz-Martín A, Jeromin A, Schweizer FE (2003) Acute changes in short-term plasticity at synapses with elevated levels of neuronal calcium sensor-1. Nat Neurosci. Oct; 6(10): 1031-8
  • Cruz-Martín A, Mercado JL, Rojas LV, McNamee M, Lasalde-Dominicci JA(2001). Tryptophan substitutions at lipid-exposed positions of the gamma M3 transmembrane increase the macroscopic ionic current response of the Torpedo californica nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. J Membr Biol. Sep 1; 183(1): 61-70

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