The brain can flexibly adapt the physiology and behaviors of the body to specific life-stage demands. For example, sexual maturation is initiated when the maturation and nutritional state of the body are ready for reproduction. Parental caregiving behaviors to infants are facilitated around the time when their own young are expected. Specific neural activity patterns that regulate milk ejection only emerge in lactating mothers. These examples suggest the presence of neural mechanisms that plastically adjust neural input organizations and output functions based on an internal state of organisms. However, little is known as to how such adaptive plasticity is implemented at the level of neural circuits. Our research aims to elucidate the mechanisms of flexible neuronal functions associated with different life stages in mice by targeting a diverse array of brain regions, ranging from the frontal cortex to the sympathetic nervous system. We employ a combination of cutting-edge techniques, including single-cell RNAseq, virus-based circuit mapping, in vivo imaging of neural activity, and molecular and neural manipulation of specific neuron types. Through our work, we hope to provide novel insights into the plasticity of the nervous system that underlies the control of animal behavior and body physiology.
- Neural basis of behavioral plasticity associated with life-stage transitions
- Neural circuit organizations and functions related to parturition, lactation, and parental caregiving behaviors
- Neural circuit dissection of the sympathetic nervous system for various organs