Friday, November 7, 2008

How plastic is your brain? Perhaps you'll find out in the Bio Colloquium today

Well, you will at least learn about neuroplasticity in species that do have more plastic brains then humans. As usual, the seminar will be in Science II, Room 109, starting at 3:00 PM. Be there!

Hormonal and environmental control of neuroplasticity

Dr. Christy Strand

Department of Biological Sciences

California Polytechnic State University


Many people have the incorrect notion that the brain is a relatively static organ or that it can degenerate, but not grow. The study of neuroplasticity encompasses changes in the brain from the cellular and molecular level to the gross anatomical level (e.g. changes in the sizes of brain regions). In adult male songbirds, the brain regions that control singing behavior grow seasonally, providing a means to investigate the regulatory mechanisms and the functional consequences of adult neuroplasticity. Specifically, during the breeding season, these regions are larger than at other times of the year due to increases in neuron number and size or decreases in density. Numerous factors that change during the breeding season have been implicated in regulating the growth of these brain regions, most notably, testosterone (T), photoperiod and singing behavior. I use a comparative approach to investigate the effects of T, photoperiod, singing and other social or environmental factors on song control region growth and new neuron incorporation in the adult male songbird brain. I also investigate how environmental, physiological and hormonal factors affect neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in adult snakes and lizards. This integrative approach provides a more complete analysis of the contributions of various factors to the regulation of neuroplasticity in vertebrate animals.



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