Our laboratory studies structural plasticity in the adult brain and spinal cord. We are interested in identifying the environmental, hormonal and neural stimuli that drive changes in cell survival, dendritic architecture, dendritic spines and adult neurogenesis. The ultimate goals of our work are to determine the functional consequences of structural plasticity in the adult brain and to identify factors that enhance plasticity and cell survival in the brain and spinal cord.
Adult neurogenesis in the mammalian brain occurs at a relatively high rate in the dentate gyrus of rodents. One major focus of our research has been to characterize the factors which regulate the production and survival of new neurons in the hippocampus. We and others have identified a variety of environmental stimuli, including stress, physical activity and learning as influential determinants of the number of immature neurons in the dentate gyrus. The extent to which new neurons are important for hippocampal function is a matter of ongoing debate and investigation.