Our laboratory studies how the neural circuits are formed during development. These circuits are complex with many different neuronal cell types interconnected by precise patterns of synaptic connections. These patterns of connectivity are essential for normal nervous system function and behavior. Our studies have uncovered principles of neural development and their molecular basis. Recent work in other laboratories have suggested that abnormalities in neural circuit development contribute to neuropsychiatric diseases including autism and schizophrenia.
We are interested in identifying the cellular recognition molecules that specify interactions between neurites, axons and dendrites, ultimately leading to the formation of synaptic connections between them. Historically, we have studied this problem in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This system is amenable to analysis using incisive genetic tools, robust RNA-sequencing approaches and live imaging. Furthermore, the patterns of synaptic connectivity, the connectome, have been determined for large parts of the fly brain at high resolution. In more recent work, we have initiated a study to identify molecules that mediate synaptic specificity in the mouse, using a combination of high throughput RNA sequencing and CRISPR technology.