Mark Wu

Johns Hopkins University

Temporal Coding-Induced Synaptic Plasticity Determines Clock-Driven Sleep Quality

12:00 pm, Thursday 12 April 2018

Location: Oxford Martin School, 34 Broad Street, Oxford

Abstract:  Neurons use two fundamental coding schemes to convey information: rate coding (frequency of firing) and temporal coding (timing of firing). Although temporal coding has long been postulated to be important for encoding responses to stimuli or internal states, this hypothesis has been challenging to test. I will describe how the circadian clock acts via a novel clock output molecule, Wide Awake (WAKE), to tune biophysical properties of spikes to induce regular firing of specific clock neurons at night. Optogenetic experiments demonstrate that these changes in the pattern of firing, in the absence of changes in firing rate, directly alter sleep quality. Computational modeling shows that the rhythmic changes in ionic flux driven by WAKE are sufficient to account for both the dynamic modulation of spike morphology and the regularity of the spike train. Finally, I will show how temporal coding in these clock neurons is transformed to rate coding changes in downstream arousal neurons and demonstrate that temporal coding alone can induce synaptic plasticity that encodes persistent changes in clock-regulated sleep quality.

Bio:  Mark Wu is Associate Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on the circadian and homeostatic regulation of sleep, using both fruit flies and mice as model systems. His group uses high-throughput screens in fruit flies to identify novel genes and circuits involved in these processes and then seeks to translate these studies to mammals. Dr. Wu also conducts clinical research on the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease and is a practicing sleep medicine physician, seeing patients with neurological sleep disorders.