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Microscope photo of Larva muscle nerve cells

How is it possible that robust behaviours can emerge from nervous systems whose component cells are inherently variable (each cell the product of molecular processes that are ultimately stochastic)? How does nature deal with parameters it cannot predict, such as seasonal temperature differences, which affects all biophysical processes?

As the cells that make up neural networks become functional, they undergo a tuning process. This allows for calibration with one another, adopting sets of properties that allow appropriate network function to emerge. The tuning process is called a ‘critical period’ because errors caused by disturbances become locked in throughout later life. Critical period disturbances are increasingly thought to lie at the heart of many human neuro-developmental conditions, including seizures and psychiatric disorders.

We study critical periods and mechanisms of plasticity during nervous system development using one of the premier genetic model systems, Drosophila melanogaster.

Current research topics include:

  • Critical periods during nervous system development - how networks become functional and why transient disturbances during such formative periods cause lasting errors to nervous system function and animal behaviour.
  • Mechanisms of activity-regulated plasticity and homeostasis in the developing nervous system.
  • Reactive oxygen species as metabolic feedback signals, necessary for adaptive plasticity adjustments.

Key Publications

Giachello CNG, Fan YN, Landgraf M, Baines RA. (2021). Nitric oxide mediates activity-dependent change to synaptic excitation during a critical period in Drosophila. Sci Rep. 11:20286. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-99868-8.

Dhawan S, Myers P, Bailey DMD, Ostrovsky AD, Evers JF, Landgraf M. (2021). Reactive Oxygen Species Mediate Activity-Regulated Dendritic Plasticity Through NADPH Oxidase and Aquaporin Regulation. Front Cell Neurosci. 2021; 15: 641802. DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2021.641802.

Valdes-Aleman J, Fetter RD, Sales EC, Heckman EL, Venkatasubramanian L, Doe CQ, Landgraf M, Cardona A, Zlatic M. (2021). Comparative Connectomics Reveals How Partner Identity, Location, and Activity Specify Synaptic Connectivity in Drosophila. Neuron. 2021 Jan 6; 109(1): 105–122.e7. DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.10.004.

Oswald MCW, Brooks PS, Zwart MF, Mukherjee A, West RJH, Giachello, CNGMorarach K, Baines RA, Sweeney ST and Landgraf M. (2018). Reactive Oxygen Species Regulate Activity-Dependent Neuronal Structural Plasticity.  eLife, 7. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.39393.

Zwart MF, Pulver SR, Truman JW, Fushiki A, Fetter, RD, Cardona A, Landgraf M. (2016). Selective Inhibition Mediates the Sequential Recruitment of Motor Pools. Neuron 91(3):615-628.  DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.06.031.  

Couton L, Mauss AS, Yunusov T, Diegelmann S, Evers JF, Landgraf M (2015). Development of connectivity in a motoneuronal network in Drosophila larvae. Curr Biol 25: 568–576, 2015. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.12.056.  (see also Dispatch by Sternberg JR, Wyart C. Neuronal wiring: linking dendrite placement to synapse formation. Curr Biol 25: R190–1, 2015.)


Full list of publications via PubMed


Contact Details

Group Leader

Dr Matthias Landgraf

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223  (7)69348

Group Members