The human brain contains hundreds of trillions of synapses; contact points between brain cells where neurotransmitters are released to convey information. The amount of neurotransmitter that synapses release is constantly changed by short-term synaptic plasticity. This means that neural circuits are continuously remodeled by recent activity. The Jackman lab is trying to understand how the brain uses short-term plasticity to perform computations.
A central tenet of neuroscience is that synaptic plasticity is required for the brain to store and process information. However, we know surprisingly little about how short-term plasticity affects cognition and perception. Defining the mechanisms and functions of short-term plasticity could help us understand how neural circuits handle information, and determine the role of short-term plasticity in neuropsychiatric disorders.