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Faculty
Theresa A. Jones
Professor

Email: tj@psy.utexas.edu
Website
Main Office: SEA 5.248
Phone: 512-232-1814

Alternate Office: ARC 3.120
Alt. Phone: 512-475-7763

Mailing Address
Psychology Department
1 University Station
University of Texas
Austin ,TX 78712

Theresa A. Jones


Research Summary

My laboratory studies plasticity of neural structure and synaptic connectivity in adult animals following brain damage and during learning. Damage to the adult brain results in degeneration and neurotoxicity in regions that are connected to the site of principal injury as well as an apparently adaptive neuronal plasticity and reconfiguration of synaptic connections. Our research on the effects of focal damage to the sensorimotor cortex in adult rats indicates that the neuronal response to brain damage is dependent upon post-injury behavioral changes, including compensatory behaviors that animals develop spontaneously and those induced using motor skill learning as rehabilitative training. This work supports that the degenerative effects of brain damage induce a fertile environment for neuronal growth and synaptogenesis, but that this must be capitalized upon by appropriate behavioral pressures in order to effectively shape the neuronal restructuring. That is, the "use it or lose it" idea as applied to neuronal connections may be especially applicable to the maintenance and growth of synapses in areas which are connected to the site of an injury. Additional research focuses on motor learning-induced plasticity of the cerebellum and motor cortex in intact animals and how this is altered after damage to the neocortex of one hemisphere. An ongoing component of this research is plasticity of glial-neuronal interactions. In addition to attempting to understand mechanisms underlying neuronal adaptation to brain damage, a goal of this work is to address the efficacy of using behavior as "therapy" to promote brain changes which are functionally adaptive.

 

 

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