Experience alters brain structure. Structural plasticity reveals that brain function is encoded in generative changes to cells that compete with destructive processes driving neurodegeneration.
At an adult critical period, experience increases fiber number and brain size in Drosophila. In mammals, the neurotrophins are the key growth factors that link structure and function in the brain. They regulate neuronal survival and connectivity, synaptogenesis and synaptic function, via their tyrosine kinase Trk and p75 receptors. In this talk, I will review the Drosophila neurotrophin system. We showed that Drosophila neurotrophins work via Toll receptors and kinase-less Trk-like receptors to regulate the same processes as in mammals, but via novel molecular mechanisms. Toll and Toll-like receptors in mammals were best known for their functions in innate immunity. I will present our findings on the involvement of Toll receptors in structural brain plasticity. Through their topographic distribution in the brain and their ability to switch between alternative signalling outcomes, Tolls can translate diverse sensory experience into structural change.
Professor of Neurogenetics, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham.
Alicia Hidalgo completed a first degree in biological sciences at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and received her PhD in Drosophila developmental genetics from the University of Oxford under the supervision of Phil Ingham. She subsequently held postdoctoral positions with Antonio García-Bellido at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (1990–1992) and with Andrea Brand at the Wellcome/CRUK Institute in Cambridge (1993-1997). Alicia launched her independent career in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, supported by a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship (1997) and an EMBO Young Investigator Award (2001). She moved to the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham in 2002, where she is now Professor of Neurogenetics.