Abstract: Series 113, Lecture 7

The Harvey Lectures Series 113 (2017—2018)

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Lecture #7: Thursday, May 17, 2018 — Watch Video of Lecture

How Immune Cells Wire and Unwire the Brain

Beth Stevens, PhD

Beth Stevens, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School & FM Kirby Neurobiology Center

Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston, Massachusetts

Dr Stevens's Website

In this lecture, we will discuss recent work that implicates brain immune cells, called microglia, in sculpting of synaptic connections during development, and their relevance to autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders.

A key role for microglia and a group of immune-related molecules called complement has been revealed in developmental synaptic pruning, a normal process required to establish precise brain wiring. Emerging evidence suggests that aberrant regulation of this pruning pathway may contribute to synaptic and cognitive dysfunction in a host of brain disorders, including schizophrenia. Ongoing work is aimed at understanding the mechanisms by which complement and microglia prune specific synapses in the brain. A deeper understanding of how these immune mechanisms mediate synaptic pruning may provide novel insight into how to protect synapses in autism and other brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.