Research Topic

Selection and consolidation of neuronal circuits during learning and development

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From perception to action, mental functions involve coordinated activities among specific neuronal ensembles. These ensembles are embedded in complex, interconnected neuronal circuits in the brain. A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to understand the processes by which neuronal ensembles are selected ...

From perception to action, mental functions involve coordinated activities among specific neuronal ensembles. These ensembles are embedded in complex, interconnected neuronal circuits in the brain. A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to understand the processes by which neuronal ensembles are selected and consolidated for specific information processing tasks during development and learning. Recent technological breakthroughs in optical imaging, electrophysiology, and molecular genetics have made it possible to track the temporal evolution of neuronal ensembles and to perturb specific circuit elements for causal understanding. These studies are providing a new, direct and highly dynamic view of neuronal circuits, in which task-related neuronal activities emerge and dissipate, synaptic connections are formed and lost, and gene expression patterns actively evolve during the course of development and learning. With the arrival of a wealth of neural data in complex spatiotemporal forms across multiple levels, many conceptual questions and technical challenges arise. What is the computational logic underlying the selection and consolidation of neuronal ensembles? How are these processes linked to the functions of a particular circuit during brain development and behavioral learning? What are the biological mechanisms to implement these processes? How to integrate the biological mechanisms across multiple spatial and temporal scales? Do psychiatric disorders emerge from the developmental disruption of these processes? Is it possible to harness the underlying mechanisms to repair dysfunctional neural circuits?

This Research Topic intends to provide a forum for investigators who use innovative experimental techniques or computational modeling to study the dynamic nature of neuronal circuits and the emergence of neuronal ensembles in various brain regions during development and learning. Contributions in the formats of original research articles, review articles, computational studies, or methodological analyses are all welcome. Presented together, these articles will promote integrative understanding across multiple levels, from population activity and synaptic connection to neuromodulation and gene expression dynamics. In addition, this forum will also facilitate identification of the commonality or uniqueness between different tasks and circuits, and point the way forward for future research. Considering the fundamental importance of circuit dynamics and plasticity in basic and clinical neuroscience research, this research topic will offer a timely conceptual synthesis of the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which neuronal circuits are selected and consolidated for specific information processing tasks, present innovative experimental approaches and techniques, and bring implications for clinical brain disorders and neuroplasticity based therapeutic strategies.


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