OIST Workshop "Principles of Synapse Organization and Neural Network Regulation Gained Through Evolution"
Synapses are highly specialized contacts between neurons that serve as the fundamental nodes of information transmission in the brain. The diversity and dynamic changes in synaptic signaling are crucial for neural circuit operations underlying a variety of brain functions from perception to learning that impact animal behavior and survival. Yet, precisely how synaptic circuits are shaped and functionally tuned as required by the neural circuits they support, remain to be fully clarified. Evolution provides a powerful opportunity to gain insights into the principles of synapse organization and synaptic network regulation through nature’s way. Along with research on mammalian brain, nervous systems of invertebrates such as nematodes and fruit flies have been actively studied as genetically tractable model organisms. Curiously, synaptic circuits of these invertebrate models can be highly sophisticated and display many features that are conserved with mammalian nervous systems. Therefore, organisms possessing an even simpler nervous system could help unravel the logic underlying the design of synaptic communication and its implementation in regulating neural network and animal behaviors. Recent advances in transcriptomic profiling and imaging techniques are revealing the molecular components and the dynamics of the nervous system of cnidarians that possess vestiges of synaptic networks.
By capitalizing on such developments, this workshop aims to bring together experts in the fields of nervous system evolution, synaptic regulation, and imaging of brain circuit activity, fields that have remained relatively independent to date. By catalyzing synergistic interactions amongst researchers across fields, our overall goal is to make first steps towards revealing the secrets of minimal essential building blocks of neural circuits that ultimately control animal behavior.
OIST is deeply committed to the advancement of women in science, in Japan and worldwide. Women are strongly encouraged to apply.