PiN Faculty Member - Chinfei Chen, MD, PhD

Chinfei Chen, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology

Boston Children's Hospital
F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center
Center for Life Science, 12th Floor
3 Blackfan Circle
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-919-2685
Fax: 617-738-0242
Email: chinfei.chen@childrens.harvard.edu



The goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms that underlie synaptic plasticity in the developing and mature mammalian central nervous system. We use a combination of tools, including electrophysiological, in vitro and in vivo optical imaging methods, along with genetically altered mouse strains, optogenetics and pharmacogenetics to examine the regulation of synaptic circuits in the visual system.

One area of our research focuses on the establishment and refinement of synaptic circuits during development. We have characterized, using electrophysiological techniques, the convergence of the retinogeniculate synapse during development as multiple inputs are eliminated and remaining synaptic inputs strengthened. In addition, we have uncovered an experience-dependent critical period at this synapse during which connections can be re-wired late in development. To identify and characterize the factors that mediate the different phases of remodeling of the retinogeniculate synapse, we are taking advantage of mouse mutants and viral-mediated circuit manipulations to elucidate the roles of specific molecular cues and plasticity mechanisms. These approaches are also used to advance our understanding of how disruption of proper synaptic circuit development can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and epilepsy.

In another line of research, we are interested in understanding the mechanisms that regulate how firing patterns of retinal cells are decoded into the output of the thalamocortical neurons. These mechanisms are especially important during development, in the face of dramatic changes in strength and connectivity. We are addressing several questions: (1) how do specific retinal firing patterns influence synaptic strength through presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms, (2) how do ascending neurotransmitter systems from the brainstem and feedback circuits from the cortex and thalamic reticular nucleus alter the strength of the retinogeniculate synapse and sensory processing, and (3) how do long-term changes in presynaptic activity alter the properties of the retinogeniculate synapse.



Last Update: 7/13/2015



Publications

For a complete listing of publications click here.

 


 



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