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Featuring P. Robin Hiesinger, PhD, Professor and Head of Neurobiology Division, Institute for Biology, Free University Berlin, Germany

This seminar will be held in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus (9th floor lecture hall). Columbia University’s Intercampus Shuttle Service is the best way to travel between campuses. For those unable to attend in person, this seminar will be livestreamed.

The quest for molecular mechanisms of brain wiring is sturdily guided by the notion of key-and-lock molecules. Yet, most neurons readily form synapses with incorrect partners when given the opportunity. How does this apparent contradiction give rise to the remarkable precision of brain wiring? Brain wiring is a developmental growth process that it not only characterized by precision, but also flexibility and robustness. As in any other growth process, cellular interactions are restricted in space and time. Correspondingly, surface molecular interactions are restricted to those that ‘get to see’ each other during development. This seminar will explore the question how neurons decide when and where to make synapses using the Drosophila visual system as a model. New findings reveal that pattern formation during growth and the kinetics of axonal filopodia restrict synapse formation and partner choice for neurons that are not otherwise prevented from making incorrect synapses in this system. For example, filopodial autophagy restricts inappropriate partner choice through a process of kinetic exclusion that critically contributes to wiring specificity. The seminar will explore this and other neuronal strategies when and where to make synapses during developmental growth that contribute to precise, flexible and robust outcomes in brain wiring.


Those who wish to meet the speaker during their visit should contact Heike Blockus (Polleux lab). For general inquiries please contact programs@zi.columbia.edu.


The Columbia Neuroscience Seminar series is a collaborative effort of Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, the Department of Neuroscience, the Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior and the Columbia Translational Neuroscience Initiative, and with support from the Kavli Institute for Brain Science.