The team led by Antonia Marin Burgin was one of six winners of a grant awarded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) to investigate new frontiers in neurobiology.

Along with the groups of Adi Mizrahi, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; and Melanie Woodin, from the University of Toronto, Canada, they presented a joint research project to identify the processes that occur in neuronal synapses during perceptual learning.

“For three years we are going to study the mechanisms that occur in the brain when one learns to react to a stimulus, in this case an auditory stimulus. Mice will be trained to associate a sound with a reward, for example water or food”, Marin Marin Burgin explains, and she adds: “As learning progresses, the representation of that sound in the brain changes, and subjects can even learn to better discern that sound when it is presented with other sounds”.

The goal is to discover which mechanisms and molecules are involved throughout this process, which takes weeks. Changes occur in the synapses of the auditory cortex as the mouse learns to associate sound with reward.

During those three years, the group of Adi Mizrahi will work on two-photon images to visualize the activity of auditory neurons, and was also in charge of the development of behavioral boxes to train the mice. On the other hand, the groups of Woodin and Marin Burgin will study the synaptic plasticity of the neural pathways, and the involved inhibitory and excitatory neural circuits.

The grant was awarded by the IDRC, together with its partners the Azrieli Foundation, The Israel Science Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.