Robert C. Froemke

Assistant Professor, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Molecular Neurobiology. Departments of Otolaryngology and Physiology and Neuroscience

Ph.D., 2004 University of California, Berkley

Lab Website:

Keywords: 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

Administrative Contact:

Dolly Chan
Tel: (212) 263-7595

Synaptic Plasticity, Network Dynamics, and Behavior

We 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:

Southwell, D.G., Paredes, M.F., Galvao, R.P., Jones, D.L., Froemke, R.C., Sebe, J.Y., Alfaro-Cervello, C., Garcia-Verdugo, J.M., Baraban, S.C., and Alvarez-Buylla, A. Intrinsically determined cell death of developing cortical interneurons. Nature (in press).

Dorrn, A., Yuan, K., Barker, A.J., Schreiner, C.E., and Froemke, R.C. (2010). Developmental sensory experience balances cortical excitation and inhibition. Nature 465, 932-936. PMID: 20559387

Southwell, D.G., Froemke, R.C., Alvarez-Buylla, A., Stryker, M.P., and Gandhi, S.P. (2010). Cortical plasticity induced by inhibitory neuron transplantation. Science 327, 1145-1148.  PMID: 20185728

Froemke, R.C., Merzenich, M.M., and Schreiner, C.E. (2007). A synaptic memory trace for cortical receptive field plasticity. Nature 450, 425-429. PMID: 10884384

Froemke, R.C., Poo, M.-M., and Dan, Y. (2005). Spike-timing-dependent plasticity depends on dendritic location. Nature 434, 221-225. PMID: 15759002

Click here to see all publications in PubMed