Stryker is a pioneer of research into the mechanisms responsible for the development of neural connections and the capacity for these connections to adapt and change in the fully developed central nervous system.
The goal of his research, most of which is done on the visual cortex of mice, is to gain insight into the way in which nerve fibers grow and make the connections that lead to all aspects of brain functioning in humans.
By learning the way in which nerve cells communicate to form connections - and the critical periods during which these connections are refined, both prenatally and during infancy - researchers hope to be able to prevent nerve connections from forming incorrectly and to correct malformations when they do occur.
Understanding the way in which the brain assembles and wires itself could provide insights into the cause of developmental disorders that occur prenatally or near the time of birth. Some of these disorders, characterized by loss of movement or loss of other nerve function, fall under the general category of cerebral palsy.
Discoveries could also provide researchers with insights into the molecular tools needed to stimulate the assembly of functional neural networks following spinal cord injuries or other central nervous system damage, such as stroke. While scientists are currently focused on trying to identify ways to prompt neurons to regenerate after injury to the central nervous system, they will eventually need to determine how to get neurons to make the right connections once they regenerate.
The research could even offer insights into the mechanisms by which the brain wires itself for cognitive processes, such as learning and memory, which could lead to treatments for learning disabled people.
In normal development, neural connections to and within the visual cortex a
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