Alison L. Barth, Ph.D.

  • Professor
  • Department of Biological Sciences and Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

Education & Training

  • A.B., Biology Brown University- 1991
  • Ph.D. Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley- 1997
  • Post-Doctoral, Neurophysiology, Stanford University-2001

Research Interest Summary

The Barth lab is interested in how experience progressively changes neocortical circuits, with a focus on cell-type and synapse-specific changes across sensory cortex.

Research Categories

Research Interests

We use advanced imaging and electrophysiological recording techniques to analyze how neurons in the rodent cortex can be changed over developmental time or with behavioral/sensory perturbations.  Our long-term interests have focused on the plasticity of neocortical circuits, where I have investigated the mechanisms underlying experience-dependent synaptic strengthening.  We are also highly invested  in developing molecular technologies that can be used to address important questions in cellular and systems neuroscience, from the development of the fosGFP transgenic mice more than 10 years ago, to the multiplexing of fluorescent proteins for increasing fluorescence signal, to the application of single-molecule tracking technologies in the study of ion channel trafficking.  More recently, we have been adapting electron- and fluorescence microscopy techniques for synapse detection for high-throughput, machine-learning analysis of synapse properties in the mammalian brain. The large-scale, unbiased collection of anatomical and electrophysiological data is a major focus of our current work, to understand how neural circuits are rewired during learning.

A second major focus area in the lab is on neocortical representations of touch sensation during development and in adult animals.  Touch is a rich multimodal sense composed of discrete sensations such as texture, vibration, proprioception, temperature, and pressure.  How these different streams of inputs are encoded and integrated in somatosensory areas of the brain remains largely unknown.  Using new transgenic mice to control the activity of different touch receptors, we are developing automated training and optogenetic stimulation methods to map and manipulate different tactile modalities in the mouse brain.

Representative Publications

Urban-Ciecko, J. and Barth A.L.  Somatostatin neurons in cortical networks (2016) Nature Reviews Neuroscience 17:401–409.

Ye, L., Allen, W.F., Thompson, K.R., Tian, Q., Hsueh, B., Ramakrishnan, C., Wang A.-C., Jennings, J., Adhikari, A., Witten, I.B., Barth, A.L., Luo, L. Halpern C.H., McNab, J., and Deisseroth, K.  Long-range wiring and molecular signatures of prefrontal cortex neuronal populations mediating positive or negative valence experience.  (2016) Cell Jun 16;165(7):1776-88.

Chandrasekaran, S., Navlakha, S., Audette, N.J., McCreary, D., Souhan, J., Bar-Joseph, Z., and Barth, A.L.  Unbiased, high-throughput analysis of experience-dependent changes in synaptic density in somatosensory cortex.  (2015) Journal of Neuroscience Dec 16;35(50):16450-16462.

Navlakha, S., Barth, A.L.*, and Bar-Joseph, Z.*  Synapse pruning rates optimize construction of efficient and robust networks.  (2015) PLoS Computational Biology July 28; 11(7): e1004347.  *indicates co-corresponding authors

Urban-Ciecko, J., Fanselow, E.E., and Barth, A.L.  Neocortical somatostatin neurons reversibly silence excitatory transmission via GABAb receptors (2015) Current Biology Mar 16;25(6):722-31.

Jouhanneau, J.S., Ferrarese, L., Estabanez L., Audette N., Brecht, M., Barth, A.L., and Poulet, J.F.A.  Cortical cfos expression reveals broad receptive field excitatory neurons targeted by POm.  (2014) Neuron Nov 13;84(5):1065-1078.

Wen, J.A. and Barth, A.L.  Initiation, labile, and stabilization phases of experience-dependent plasticity at neocortical synapses.  (2013)  Journal of Neuroscience 33(19):8483-93.

Poulet, J.F.A. and Barth, A.L. Experimental evidence for sparse firing in the neocortex.  (2012) Trends in Neurosciences, Jun;35(6):345-55.

Wen, J.A. and Barth, A.L.  Input-specific critical periods for experience-dependent plasticity in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons.  (2011)  Journal of Neuroscience 23;31(12):4456-65.

Yassin, L., Benedetti, B.L., Jouhanneau, J.-S., Wen, J.A., Poulet, J.F.A. and Barth A.L.   An embedded subnetwork of highly active neurons in the neocortex.  (2010) Neuron 68(6):1043-50.

Clem, R.L., Celikel, T., and Barth, A.L. Ongoing in vivo experience triggers synaptic metaplasticity in the neocortex.  (2008) Science 319:101-104.

Full List of Publications