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Humans have a remarkable ability to learn from their environment after birth, but this plasticity also makes them susceptible to environmental insults.  At the cellular level, learning is accomplished by changing the strength of the synaptic connections between neurons.  Therefore, the Dudek lab is working to identify the underlying processes of synaptic plasticity.  Using molecular techniques, patch clamp recordings and confocal microscopic imaging from neurons in brain slices and culture, we ask how neuronal activity controls gene transcription and brain circuitry and what determines why some brain regions are more plastic than others.  These studies are likely to shed light on environmental causes of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and autism.