Robert C. Froemke

Associate Professor, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Neuroscience Institute, Stem Cell Institute, Departments of Otolaryngology and Neuroscience/Physiology

Ph.D., 2004 University of California, Berkley

Froemke Lab
Behavior, Network Dynamics, Neuroscience, Plasticity, Synapses

Contact Information

Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
540 First Avenue 5th floor, Lab 9
New York, N.Y. 10016
Office Tel: (212) 263-4082
Lab Tel: (212) 263-4081
Fax: (212) 263-8214

Admin Contact

Susan Ha
Tel: (212) 263-6354

Synaptic Plasticity, Network Dynamics, and Behavior

RatWe study the organization and plasticity of cortical synapses, and the relations between circuit dynamics and the control of perception and behavior. We use a range of techniques, including electrophysiological recordings in vivo and in vitro, 2-photon microscopy, behavioral methods, and computational analyses, to ask two main questions.

1. Neural circuitry and plasticity of mammalian social behavior. Social interactions, such as pair bond formation and child rearing, are fundamental aspects of animal and human behavior. Positive parent-child interactions are critical for normative child development, and child neglect can have drastic, life-long consequences on physical and mental health. Furthermore, neuropathological conditions such as autism, depression, and schizophrenia produce severe impairments and withdrawal of social behaviors. These disorders severely degrade the quality of life for patients and their families, and often involve costly long-term health care. We focus on the circuits and molecular cues that control vocal communication between mothers and children. We study ultrasonic vocalization signals in rodents and the control of cortical plasticity by hormones such as oxytocin, with in vivo whole-cell recording, multi-electrode recording, and behavioral analysis.

2. Long-term synaptic plasticity in cortical networks. The mammalian cortex is plastic, maintaining the capacity for structural and functional reorganization all throughout life. Plasticity is an important feature of the auditory cortex, especially for processing the behavioral significance of sensory signals such as speech, music and other forms of auditory communication. Mechanisms of cortical plasticity seem to be disrupted in learning impairments and language disorders; conversely, engaging these mechanisms by training programs and prosthetic devices will help repair damaged brains in pathological conditions. Thus understanding the rules, cellular mechanisms, and functional relevance of cortical plasticity is essential for language learning and mental health.

Selected Publications: 
  • Martins ARO, Froemke RC. Coordinated forms of noradrenergic plasticity in the locus coeruleus and primary auditory cortex.  Nature Neuroscience 2015; 18:1483-1492. PMID:26301326
  • D'amour JA, Froemke RC. Inhibitory and excitatory spike-timing-dependent plasticity in the auditory cortex. Neuron 2015; 86; 514-528. PMID: 25843405
  • Marlin BJ, Mitre M, D'amour JA, Chao MV, Froemke RC. Oxytocin enables maternal behaviour by balancing cortical inhibition. Nature 2015; 520:499-504. PMID: 25874674
  • Froemke RC. Plasticity of cortical excitatory-inhibitory balance. Annual Review of Neuroscience 2015; 38:195-219. PMID: 25897875

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