Science Café Cleveland presents


"Brain Wiring: The crucial role of early activity"


MARCH 11, 2013




Lynn T. Landmesser

Arlene H. & Curtis F. Garvin Professor and Chair

Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University




Sensory experience has long been known to refine connections as the brain develops and is required during certain critical periods for normal brain wiring. However in many animals and in humans numerous connections form prior to birth and before sensory organs mature. Remarkably, at these early developmental stages, the brain and spinal cord generate their own stimulation in the form of rhythmic propagating waves of electrical activity. These are essential for making the neural connections needed for both normal vision and movement. Newly developed tools have recently let us watch individual neurons in living brains and spinal cords as they grow to their targets and establish connections. They have also provided us ways to stimulate such neurons  non-invasively with light.  Thus the importance of early activity for normal brain and spinal cord wiring can now be explored in intact developing embryos. These studies should help resolve the following questions: 


  • What aspects of brain development and wiring require such waves of activity?
  • Do substances consumed by the mother that perturb this activity lead to wiring defects in the embryo/fetus?
  • Is improper wiring permanent or can it be reversed?
  • Do alterations in early activity contribute to developmental or psychiatric brain disorders in humans?




Lynn Landmesser carried out undergraduate and PhD studies at UCLA and was a Professor at Yale University and the University of Connecticut, prior to coming to CWRU in 1993, where she has been chair of the Neurosciences department since 1999.  Throughout her career she has tried to understand how neural circuits develop, and how both genes and environmental stimuli, some generated by the nervous system itself prior to birth, contribute to appropriate neural circuit formation.


She has served on numerous national and international scientific advisory panels, including the NIH, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan.  She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has also been the director of an NIH sponsored training grant for neuroscience graduate students since 1995.




Critical periods in brain wiring:


Kastanenka and Landmesser. In Vivo Activation of Channelrhodospin-2 Reveals That Normal Patterns of Spontaneous Activity Are Required for Motoneuron Guidance and Maintanence of Guidance Molecules. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30 (31):10575-10585. 2010.

doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2773-10.2010


Landmesser Lab website:




WHERE: The Market Garden Brewery

(Located at 1947 West 25th Street next to the West Side Market, Cleveland, Ohio)


WHEN: March 11, 2013

Discussion starts around 7:00 pm.

*Please Note* A few of our cafes have approached capacity and/or standing room only. If you want to be 100% sure to get in and get a good seat, you might want to arrive a bit early.


WHO: Sponsored by Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi, WCPN

ideastream, and the Market Garden Brewery



Click here to download a pdf flyer of the event