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21 September

Jonathan Boulanger-Weill Functional integration of newborn neurons into established neuronal circuits in the zebrafish larval visual system

14h à 15h30

La soutenance de thèse de Jonathan Boulanger-Weillaura lieu dans l’ amphi Rataud - ENS, 45 rue d’Ulm 75005 Paris

Summary :

In the vertebrate brain, mechanisms leading to the incorporation of newborn neurons into already functional networks still remain poorly understood. Indeed, since most of the studies have been performed at the single-cell level, a detailed description of the circuit dynamics is lacking.

To investigate this phenomenon, I have developed a pioneer methodology using the zebrafish larva as an experimental model and a multidisciplinary approach combining genetics, two-photon microscopy and optogenetics to monitor the developing activity of genetically targeted newborn neurons and the surrounding matured networks, in an intact and non-anesthetized vertebrate. Using this technique I have described for the first time, and in the time course of several days, the developmental dynamics of the functional properties of newborn neurons before and during their incorporation into the mature tectal circuit, the zebrafish most complex layered structure and highest visual center.

Overall, these results suggest a developmental sequence of events during which newborn neurons capable of generating intrinsic activity dynamics first connect to their pre-synaptic sensory organ (the retina). At a second stage, the newborn neurons gradually incorporate into the tectal mature circuit showing sparse correlations with mature neurons. At a third stage, the spatial organization of the correlation between the newborn and the mature neurons is refined, becoming denser. I thus suggest that the newborn neurons first connect to a large population of sparsely located mature neurons and subsequently distant connections are pruned, permitting the newborn-labeled neuron to acquire a stable and robust functional signature (e.g. sharp receptive fields).

In the recent years, treatments based on the transplantation of neural tissue have been developed to target neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Because these therapies face the problem of poor survival and long-term functional incorporation, this study may provide better understanding of neuronal circuits formation and might pave the way to improve the efficiency of stem-cells-based treatments for human-brain reparation.