Alo Basu, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at College of the Holy Cross, will present "Neuronal Complexity and Hippocampus-Dependent Cognition."
There is strikingly little understanding, at present, of how cellular and circuit-level variation in the mammalian brain relates to variation in cognition. Following from case studies of brain damage and disease in humans, current understanding of brain-behavior relationships is largely based on results of physical, chemical, pharmacological and genetic "lesions" that result in changes to neuronal morphology, circuit physiology and cognition in experimental systems. We have developed a mouse model of D-serine deficiency which reveals the limitations of the current paradigm, including the pitfalls of hypothesis testing as regards variability in neuronal structure and cognitive function. Further, we have uncovered deleterious effects of standard laboratory housing conditions on cognition in mice that suggest that the range of behavior that is being routinely observed in translational neuroscience is limited. We propose that the analysis of variability in hippocampal neuronal morphology and behavior can be combined with noninvasive environmental enrichment to test assumptions about how complexity of hippocampal neurons relates to hippocampus-dependent cognition in mice.