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Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of California, Davis, In Progress.
B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, University of California, Davis, 2008. High Honors.
I am a second-year Neuroscience Graduate Researcher in Leah Krubitzer's Laboratory of Evolutionary Neurobiology at the Center for Neuroscience.
I am interested in the plasticity and evolution of the mammalian neocortex. My current research projects are focused on 1) examining the effects of extrinsic sensory-driven activity on cortical and behavioral plasticity, and 2) investigating factors that drive the increasing complexity of the mammalian neocortex over evolution. The South American short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) is the model system for both studies. The opossum is of interest because it is a marsupial and born very immature which allows for comparative developmental studies with placental mammals.
Specifically, I am investigating whether early enhanced visual experience can increase cortical and behavioral plasticity following the loss of visual cortex. Using methods including multi-unit electrophysiology and neuroanatomical techniques, I am examining the cortical organization and connectivity in opossums reared in a neutral or visually-enhanced environment following the loss of visual cortex. In addition, I am using behavioral techniques to determine the visual acuity of the same mammals. The findings of this study may provide insight for better treatment and prognosis of patients with cortical injuries.
In addition, I am investigating whether increasing the size of the neocortex relative to the body size is sufficient to increase cortical complexity and, if so, I will determine the behavioral implications. Manipulating gene expression early in development, the size of the neocortex will be increased. The effects on cortical organization, cortical connectivity, and behavior will be assessed. The results of this study may lead to a better understanding of the processes underlying the evolution of the mammalian neocortex.
Larsen DD, Luu JD, Burns ME, Krubitzer L. (2009) What are the Effects of Severe Visual Impairment on the Cortical Organization and Connectivity of Primary Visual Cortex? Front Neuroanat. 3:30.
Abstracts and Presentations:
Larsen DD, Luu JD, Burns ME, Krubitzer L. (2007) Cortical organization and connections in mice with congenital visual impairment. Poster at Society for Neuroscience 37th Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA.