Julie Lefebvre

Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neural Circuitry

Tier 2 - 2014-10-01
University of Toronto


Coming to Canada from

Harvard University, Cambridge, United States

Research involves

Understanding how nerve cells in the brain are organized into circuits that enable functions such as sight, motor skills and language.

Research relevance

This research will lead to a deeper understanding of how conditions such as autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia develop.

Does Faulty Wiring Cause Neural Disorders?

When the human brain develops, billions of nerve cells are organized into intricate circuits. These circuits serve as the brain’s wiring, enabling us to see, move and speak. But how does this happen? And what if this circuitry isn’t “wired” correctly?

As Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neural Circuitry, Dr. Julie Lefebvre will explore the developmental and molecular mechanisms that form the connections between neurons—the circuits within the brain. Even small changes in neural wiring can affect complex brain functions such as speech and learning. She hopes her research will shed light on how defects in these connections contribute to the development of brain disorders like autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Lefebvre and her research team will use cutting-edge microscopy and genetic technologies in mouse models to examine and manipulate nerve cells in the developing brain and retina. This will allow them to investigate how neural circuits are built from a wide variety of cell types, and why their proper organization is critical for neural function.

By better understanding these mechanisms, Lefebvre hopes to bridge the gap between identifying genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, and understanding the impact on the development and function of brain circuits. This knowledge could support scientists’ search for drugs and therapies to treat disorders like autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia. Her research will also help scientists understand how the brain’s circuitry is associated with neural disorders.