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Timothy O'Leary

Biological sensors and feedback mechanisms for controlling neural activity

Nervous systems often comprise many millions of neurons that are intricately connected and electrically excitable. Connectivity and excitability support many aspects of nervous system function. Somehow, networks of neurons self organise and maintain activity levels in a functional range during development and throughout an animal's lifetime. Dense interconnectivity and highly nonlinear, excitable neural dynamics mean that this is not a trivial problem to solve. I will show experimental evidence for voltage-gated ion channel dependent sensors of long-term neuronal activation that allow neurons to tune their excitability by regulating ion channel expression. Simple models show that a surprisingly crude activity sensor can maintain neural properties by coordinating multiple nonlinear, voltage-dependent membrane conductances.

 

 

Timothy O'Leary

Cambridge Neuroscience
Department of Engineering

University of Cambridge

Dr O'Leary received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2009, switching fields from pure mathematics to neurophysiology. He has since worked on many aspects of neural physiology as an experimentalist and as a theorist. Before coming to Cambridge he worked with Eve Marder in Brandeis University, where he was a Sloan Swartz Computational Neuroscience Fellow and recipient of the 2014 Gruber International Prize from the Society for Neuroscience. He joined the Engineering Department in January 2016 as part of a mission to unite control engineers and neuroscientists.

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