The motor cortex is an area of the brain that controls complex movement-and only mammals have one. The mammalian motor cortex has evolved to possess remarkable plasticity at both the cellular and network levels. This plasticity has allowed mammals to adapt quickly to changing environments by altering the way they move based on what they learn.
Dr. Simon Chen, Canada Research Chair in Neural Circuits and Behaviour, is bridging the gap between cellular and molecular signalling and the plasticity of the neural circuits involved in motor skill learning. In particular, he and his research team are combining chronic (repeated) in vivo two-photon imaging with genetic and molecular approaches to advance their understanding of how brain plasticity changes during learning in both healthy and diseased brains. Ultimately, this could lead to new therapies to counteract the effects of stroke, neurodegenerative disease and traumatic brain injury.