Homeostasis at NYU

April 11, 2011

Today we attended Gina Turrigiano’s seminar at NYU: “Homeostasis: how do you assemble a cortical microcircuit?”  It turns out that understanding how the brain achieves homeostasis is pretty cool- there are a number of mechanisms in place that cause scaling of synaptic activity to maintain the right balance between excitation and inhibition. The most interesting message from Gina’s talk was that the mechanisms that scale up synaptic strength are quite different from the mechanisms that scale down synaptic strength. They involve different pathways and have different time courses. Gina speculated that having different mechanisms for scaling up and scaling down synaptic strength might actually simplify things from a computational point of view: with a single mechanism, there would have to be complicated feedback signals that were tuned just right. What happens instead is that there is kind of a push-pull between two different mechanisms that naturally results in the right balance.

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