Joshua Trachtenberg, Ph.D.

Office Address:
503 NRB
CA NRB 503
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Professor, Neurobiology
Member, Brain Research Institute, Cell & Developmental Biology GPB Home Area, Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology GPB Home Area, Neuroengineering Training Program, Neuroscience GPB Home Area
Research Interests
The future aint what it used to be - Yogi Berra It is precisely because the future is unpredictable that the mammalian brain has evolved the capacity to acquire new information through sensory experiences, store this information as memories, and rapidly retrieve this information to modify behavior. But how do novel sensory experiences embed themselves in the fabric of the brain to form memories? This question drives the research in my laboratory, which examines the cellular and synaptic mechanisms of experience-dependent plasticity in the neocortex. Specifically, I am interested in understanding i) where experience-dependent plasticity is initiated in the cortical circuitry; ii) how experience regulates the growth or retraction of synapses; iii) whether plasticity is restricted to only a subset of synaptic connections; iv) what distinguishes "critical period" plasticity from adult plasticity; v) how synaptic plasticity is altered in the aging and diseased brain. Techniques: To address these qustions, I use: 2-photon laser scanning microscopy to repeatedly image neurons, synapses, and proteins in the living brain of mice over periods of weeks 2-photon microscopy to acutely image cellular responses to sensory stimuli using calcium imaging. Intrinsic signal optical imaging to non-invasively and repeatedly image stimulus-induced responses in populations of neurons in the intact, living brain. Microelectrodes to monitor changes in neuronal responses to visual stimuli before and after a plasticity paradigm and to determine the laminar position of these changes Using these techniques, I directly examine experience-dependent changes in structure and function in the same cortical region. Understanding how synapse formation and elimination is regulated by experience and their roles in learning and memory is critically important to developing rationally-based therapeutic approaches to diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, and related dementias, in which cognitive impairment is strongly correlated with a loss of synapses in the cortex.

Joshua Trachtenberg's research seeks to understand how sensory experiences are written into the fabric of our brains.  Genetics plays a dominant role in wiring together the connections between neurons that establish neural circuitry.  After we are born, our brains are bombarded with information from the world around us.  This sensory information changes neural circuitry, allowing us to learn a language, perform complex visual discrimination, obtain sophisticated motor skills, and learn the subtleties of social interactions.  How this external sensory information instructs neural circuitry is not known.  Given its centrality to complex thought, tackling this question is of some significance.  The Trachtenberg lab employs a sophisticated array of vital imaging and physiological tools to reveal the richness and mechanisms of this experience-dependent plasticity.


A selected list of publications:

Yaeger Courtney E, Ringach Dario L, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Neuromodulatory control of localized dendritic spiking in critical period cortex Nature, 2019; 567(7746): 100-104.
Garcia-Junco-Clemente Pablo, Tring Elaine, Ringach Dario L, Trachtenberg Joshua T   State-Dependent Subnetworks of Parvalbumin-Expressing Interneurons in Neocortex Cell reports, 2019; 26(9): 2282-2288.e3.
Garcia-Junco-Clemente Pablo, Ikrar Taruna, Tring Elaine, Xu Xiangmin, Ringach Dario L, Trachtenberg Joshua T   An inhibitory pull-push circuit in frontal cortex Nature neuroscience, 2017; 20(3): 389-392.
Baohan Amy, Ikrar Taruna, Tring Elaine, Xu Xiangmin, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Pten and EphB4 regulate the establishment of perisomatic inhibition in mouse visual cortex Nature communications, 2016; 7(3): 12829.
Ringach Dario L, Mineault Patrick J, Tring Elaine, Olivas Nicholas D, Garcia-Junco-Clemente Pablo, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Spatial clustering of tuning in mouse primary visual cortex Nature communications, 2016; 7(3): 12270.
Trachtenberg Joshua T   Competition, inhibition, and critical periods of cortical plasticity Current opinion in neurobiology, 2015; 35(24): 44-8.
Trachtenberg Joshua T   Parvalbumin Interneurons: All Forest, No Trees Neuron, 2015; 87(2): 247-8.
Kuhlman Sandra J, Olivas Nicholas D, Tring Elaine, Ikrar Taruna, Xu Xiangmin, Trachtenberg Joshua T   A disinhibitory microcircuit initiates critical-period plasticity in the visual cortex Nature, 2013; 501(7468): 543-6.
Gdalyahu Amos, Tring Elaine, Polack Pierre-Olivier, Gruver Robin, Golshani Peyman, Fanselow Michael S, Silva Alcino J, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Associative fear learning enhances sparse network coding in primary sensory cortex Neuron, 2012; 75(1): 121-32.
Wyatt Ryan M, Tring Elaine, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Pattern and not magnitude of neural activity determines dendritic spine stability in awake mice Nature neuroscience, 2012; 15(7): 949-51.
Kuhlman Sandra J, Tring Elaine, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Fast-spiking interneurons have an initial orientation bias that is lost with vision Nature neuroscience, 2011; 14(9): 1121-3.
Matter Cheryl, Pribadi Mochtar, Liu Xin, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Delta-catenin is required for the maintenance of neural structure and function in mature cortex in vivo Neuron, 2009; 64(3): 320-7.
Faguet J, Maranhao B, Smith SL, Trachtenberg JT   Ipsilateral eye cortical maps are uniquely sensitive to binocular plasticity, Journal of Neurophysiology, 2009; 101(2): 855-61.
Chow David K, Groszer Matthias, Pribadi Mochtar, Machniki Michal, Carmichael S Thomas, Liu Xin, Trachtenberg Joshua T   Laminar and compartmental regulation of dendritic growth in mature cortex Nature neuroscience, 2009; 12(2): 116-8.
Smith SL & Trachtenberg JT   Experience-dependent binocular competition in the visual cortex begins at eye opening, Nature Neuroscience, 2007; 10(3): 370-375.
Trachtenberg JT, Chen BE, Knott GW, Feng G, Sanes JR, Welker E, Svoboda K   Long-term in vivo imaging of experience-dependent synaptic plasticity in adult cortex Nature. , 2002; 420(6917): 788-94.