Keith Hengen’s neuroscience laboratory at Washington University investigates the role of sleep and wake in chaperoning the interactions between distinct plasticity mechanisms.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the brain is its capacity to self-organize and maintain stable function across dynamically variable environments. These self-correcting adaptations can often be considered “homeostatic”; a homeostatic mechanism functions to stabilize a key parameter of a biological system, much like a thermostat serves to stabilize the temperature in a building.
This self-organization is an active process, and it should come as no surprise that impaired homeostatic mechanisms are increasingly implicated in severe human pathologies such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Rett Syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia. Despite the immediate relevance of understanding how neurons and networks are stabilized and shaped by behavior, learning, and development (and disrupted by disease), homeostasis in intact neuronal networks in vivo is almost completely unaddressed.
The Hengen Lab’s research interests are rooted in the self-organization of intact neural networks that support sensation, perception, and cognition, and how appropriate information transmission in these systems is established during development and disrupted in disease. Our work involves on sleep, plasticity, emergence, and disease.