“The Biophysical Basis of Learning and Memory”

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017 | 12:30 - 1:30 PM Add to Calendar

The Center for Theoretical Biological Physics presents Seminar Speaker:

Harel Shouval
Neurobiology & Anatomy
University of Texas Medical School

“The Biophysical Basis of Learning and Memory”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
12:30 – 1:30 PM
BRC, 10th Floor, Room 1060 A/B

Learning and memory depend on synaptic plasticity, the activity dependent changes in synaptic efficacies within brain circuits. This idea, which has started as a conjecture, now has solid experimental support. Over the last four decades a vast amount of cellular and molecular data has been collected about synaptic plasticity, yet we still lack a track-able biophysical model of synaptic plasticity that can account for the data.

In this talk I will describe some of the key experimental findings, and describe some of my contributions to the field. The process of synaptic plasticity has several phases: Induction, expression and maintenance. I will first describe my influential theory of Calcium-dependent synaptic plasticity. This is a relatively simple, yet biophysically based theory of the induction phase of synaptic plasticity. I will describe the biophysical assumptions of the theory, the data it explains and the predictions it makes. I will also describe how the stochastic version of the theory makes qualitatively different predictions than the deterministic version.

Learning and memory can last a lifetime, even though the substrates of synaptic efficacies synaptic proteins have lifetimes that are orders of magnitude shorter. Synapses therefore have a task of maintaining individual synaptic efficacies despite protein turnover and diffusion. I will describe a theory developed by my lab in which maintenance is accomplished by bi- or multi-stable molecular switch implemented at the level of translation. Specifically, I will describe experimental data that a key protein for maintenance is an atypical Protein Kinase-C (PKMζ), and describe a biophysical model based on this protein. I will also describe very new results in which we examine the constraints on synapse specificity in such a molecular switch model. Our new results make the prediction that the location of these molecular switches must be inside synaptic spines.

Harel Shouval is a Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. He received his BSc from Tel-Aviv University, an MSc from the Weizmann Institute, and a PhD from Brown University in Physics. He moved to Houston in 2003. Harel is a Theoretical Neuroscientist whose work concentrates on Synaptic Plasticity, the Cellular basis of Learning and memory. Models developed by his lab span from molecular-network level, through models at the neural circuit level and up to models that can account for behavior. His publications appeared in leading journals such as Nature, Neuron and Physical Review Letters. Harel’s work has been funded by grants from the NIH, NSF and ONR.

An Official Seminar of the Ph.D. Program in Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology at Rice University

For more information, visit:!view/event/event_id/1026


BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC), 10th Floor, Room 1060 A/B

6500 Main St, Houston, TX 77030


Lisa Bennett