Back to overview

Structural basis for neuronal plasticity in the adult somatosensory cortex

English title Structural basis for neuronal plasticity in the adult somatosensory cortex
Applicant Welker Egbert
Number 108246
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département des neurosciences fondamentales Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.04.2005 - 31.07.2009
Approved amount 260'000.00
Show all

Keywords (4)

adult plasticity; sensory experience; somatosensory cortex; mouse

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Sensory experience determines the way we perceive the world and ourselves. It is a lifelong functionality through which we develop our personality and which allows us during the various phases of our live, to act in accordance with what we learned and what we like to express. It turned out that there is a neuronal basis that allows the brain to adapt to alterations in sensory activity. We study the properties of this adaptation mechanism in a sensory system of the mouse that treats the information gathered by the whiskers on the snout. By the nature of its organization, this system allows modifying sensory activity without major perturbation for the animal and guides the observer’s eye to the brain region where alteration can be analyzed in a very precise manner. The part of the brain we particularly study is the cerebral cortex. It is the region where sensory activity is transformed into a perception and where memory traces are induced. In the cortical area receiving the information from the whiskers, multi-neuronal arrangements (named “barrels) can be identified that correspond to single whiskers. We alter sensory activity using an electromagnetic device that induces movements of one or several whiskers for a period up to several days. Mice adapt to this stimulation rapidly, and, for example, maintain a normal sleep cycle during the period of stimulation. We have studied the effect of the stimulation in the cerebral cortex of adult mouse using morphological, neurophysiological, biochemical and molecular techniques. May be the most dramatic result is the demonstration that 24 hours of whisker stimulation induces the formation of synapses in the barrel, resulting in a 30% increase in the density of these connections between neurons. After stopping the stimulation, a part of the newly formed synapses remains forming a lasting trace of the period of modified sensory experience.Although the stimulation paradigm we use does not have a behavioral benefit for the animal, we propose that similar modifications may occur in a natural setting, We are currently analyzing the molecules involved in this synaptic re-arrangement and test whether a second period of increased sensory stimulation induces similar effects.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
125379 Molecular and structural basis for homeostatic plasticity in the adult barrel cortex. 01.05.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
127289 Structure, Function and Plasticity of the Barrel Cortex 01.01.2010 Sinergia