Leah Townsend

Research Mentor:

Spencer Smith

Clinical Co-mentor:

Joe Piven

Home Department Neurobiology
Project Description Genome wide association studies have identified a multitude of candidate genes linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), but how these diverse genetic polymorphisms give rise to the aberrant neurodevelopment seen in ASDs are currently unknown. Given the gap in our knowledge regarding the gene-behavior link, I have elected to study the circuitry that results from these genetic mutations and gives rise to the observed behavior; a diverse array of genetic polymorphisms could produce similar circuitry which in turn could cause the symptoms associated with ASDs. The mouse visual cortex is an excellent model circuit system for this given that it has been extensively characterized, enables use of advanced genetic tools and behavioral phenotyping, and has translational relevance to the visual abnormalities that occur in patients with ASD. Accordingly, this project seeks to address this by using advanced imaging techniques to dissect the development of cortical circuitry in higher visual areas in mouse models of ASD.