Hisashi Umemori, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Research Associate, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center, Boston Children's Hospital
Synaptic Network Development

In the brain, information processing occurs at synapses, and defects in synapse development underlie many neurological and psychiatric diseases. Thus, precise organization of synaptic networks is critical for proper functioning of the brain.

The Umemori lab is interested in the molecules and mechanisms by which specific and functional synaptic connections are established in the brain, and is applying the findings to the prevention and treatment of neurological/psychiatric disorders. We use molecular & cellular biological, mouse genetics, biochemical, histological, physiological, behavioral, and imaging techniques. Through our work, we aim to understand the principle of mammalian brain wiring and how the functional brain is built.

There are two critical steps during synapse development: 1) differentiation of specific synaptic connections (such as excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory synapses) and 2) activity-dependent refinement of functional synapses (i.e., stabilization of active synapses and elimination of inactive synapses). We establish in vitro and in vivo systems to investigate these steps, analyze the underlying mechanisms, and identify critical determinants for the establishment of appropriate synaptic circuits in the mammalian brain. Our projects will molecularly delineate how specific and functional synaptic connections are established in vivo to understand the process of fundamental wiring of the brain. The knowledge obtained will be applied to the prevention or treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders associated with abnormal synapse formation, such as autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.