Editing synaptic connectivity in vivo

Synaptic connectivity plays an important role in determining brain function. Such structure-function relations in the brain are typically studied by observation and analysis of existing connectivity patterns. However, in order to gain a more causative understanding of how brain structure corresponds to brain function, it is necessary to manipulate connectivity, to insert, delete or reroute specific synaptic connections in vivo and to then examine the impact on function and behavior. Many methods exist for modifying synaptic communication. However, these tend to target overall neuronal input or output rather than specific connections between pre- and postsynaptic neurons. A new synthetic approach consisting of manipulating specific synaptic connections in vivo could boost our capacity to unravel the functional significance of synaptic connectivity. It could also offer potential new strategies for brain repair and pave the way towards applications of artificial life. The Jabaudon (UNIGE) and Rabinowitch (HUJI) labs are independently engaged in efforts to artificially rewire brain circuits in vivo in different systems (vertebrate vs. invertebrate) using distinct approaches. Our goal is to join forces in order to advance our ability to edit synaptic connectivity. As a first step, we wish to organize an intensive joint research workshop in Jerusalem that will enable our teams to learn in detail about each other's work, to consult with external experts and to forge the foundations for a long-term collaboration that would substantially augment our grasp of structure and function in the brain.


Dr Ithai Rabinowitch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Prof. Denis Jabaudon, University of Geneva