School of Biological Sciences Seminar
"Functional Investigation into Cerebellar Development in Health and Disease"
Meike van der Heijden, Ph.D.
Department of Pathology
Baylor College of Medicine
The cerebellum’s protracted developmental timeline makes its maturational program remarkably sensitive to genetic, mechanical, and environmental perturbations. Early cerebellar perturbations can cause diverse neurodevelopmental disabilities in infants, including motor, cognitive, affective, and social deficits. The postnatal cerebellar development of mice uniquely situates this model for in vivo investigation of the dynamics that orchestrate functional circuit maturation. My research goal is to define how the developing cerebellum becomes a functional circuit and to understand why early cerebellar perturbations cause diverse neurodevelopmental deficits. My previous work showed that neural signal maturation relies on the interaction between diverse developmental lineages, that cerebellar-dependent motor and non-motor behaviors differentially rely on distinct neural pathways, and that unique cerebellar neural signal signatures predict various motor impairments. In my lab, we will build on these findings by identifying how neural signals mature, how diverse cerebellar functions are anatomically segregated, and how disease-associated neural signals are propagated in the cerebellar circuit. By bridging developmental and systems neuroscience, this understanding will allow us to appreciate how developmental perturbations can cause diverse neurodevelopmental deficits. Next, we can use this basic knowledge to generate therapies that mimic natural developmental processes. Ultimately, we will employ this understanding to predict, prevent, and reverse neurodevelopmental deficits.