Developing Connections

Martha Constantine-Paton studied the formation and modification of synapses – the interconnections between neurons – in order to understand how experience shapes the wiring of the brain. By studying individual neurons in the visual system of developing animals, she showed that a class of molecules known as NMDA receptors plays an essential role in setting the strengths of synapses. NMDA receptors are thought to underlie many aspects of learning throughout life. Constantine-Paton also examined the role these receptors play in developmental disorders that have their origins in early life.