Jeff Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., to give lecture on “connectomics” at OHSU Research Week, May 6

The OHSU Graduate Student Organization is excited to welcome Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Ramon Y. Cajal Professor of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, to give a keynote lecture at OHSU Research Week. Dr. Lichtman’s talk, “Connectomics: What, Why and How?”, will take place Tuesday, May 6, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the OHSU Auditorium

About Dr. Lichtman’s talk

Connectional maps of the brain may have value in developing models of both how the brain works and how it fails when subsets of neurons or synapses are missing or misconnected. Dr. Lichtman is eager to obtain such maps in neonatal animals because of a longstanding interest in the ways neuromuscular circuitry is modified during early postnatal life as axonal input to muscle fibers is pruned. Work in Dr. Lichtman’s laboratory has focused on obtaining complete wiring diagrams (“connectomes”) of the projections of motor neuron axons in young and adult muscles. Each data set is large and typically made up of hundreds of confocal microscopy stacks of images which tile the three-dimensional volume of a muscle. As a first step to analyze these data sets, his lab developed computer assisted segmentation approaches and to make this task easier, developed second generation “Brainbow” transgenic mice that in essence segment each axon by a unique fluorescent spectral hue. Once the axons are segmented, they have been able to graph the connectivity matrices that result. This effort has led to new insights into the developmental processes which help the mammalian nervous system mold itself based on experience.

Dr. Lichtman did his undergraduate degree at Bowdoin College in Maine and an M.D. and Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Missouri. His Ph.D. work with Dale Purves concerned the ways in which connections between nerve cells are reorganized as animals begin to experience the world in early postnatal development. This subject has remained the interest of his laboratory (which he moved from St. Louis to Cambridge in 2004).

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