The cognitive functions of the brain, such as learning and memory, depend on the ability of neural circuits to undergo use-dependent changes in their signal processing properties. Depending on the pattern of neuronal activities, repetitive synaptic transmission could cause long-term potentiation(LTP) or long-term depression (LTD) of existing synapses, as well as the formation and elimination of synapses, leading to remodeling of neuronal connectivity. I will summarize our recent findings that acquisition of auditory fear memory in the adult mouse brain is associated with selective increase of synapse formation at lateral amygdala projections to auditory cortical neurons, and that synapse formation in the adult brain involves largely the addition of a new pre- or post-synaptic element to the existing synapse. I will also discuss the idea that neural plasticity is the main factor shaping the development of neural circuits, and that neural plasticity offers the potential for functional recovery from injuries and diseases of the adult brain. Finally, to argue that higher cognitive functions in humans such self-awareness may originate from experience-dependent neural plasticity, I will present our recent findings showing that mirror self-recognition, a cognitive function known to be limited only to humans and great apes, could be acquired by rhesus monkeys following training for visual-somatosensory association.
Mu-ming Poo received B.S. in physics in 1970 from the Tsinghua University (Taiwan) and his Ph.D in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 1974. Following postdoctoral research at Purdue University, he served on the faculty of University of California at Irvine, Yale University, Columbia University, and University of California at San Diego, before joining University of California at Berkeley in 2000, where he had served as the Head of Division of Neurobiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology. Since 1999, he also served as the founding director of Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Shanghai, and since 2014 the founding director of CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology. Poo was awarded Ameritec Prize (2001), International Science & Technology Cooperation Award of China (2005), and Qiushi Distinguished Scientist Award (2011), and received Docteur Honoris Causa from Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris (2003) and Honorary Doctorate in Science from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2014). He is a member of Academia Sinica, US National Academy of Sciences, and Hong Kong Academy of Science, and a foreign member of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Poo is well-known for his seminal contributions to our understanding of membrane protein mobility, axon guidance mechanisms, and neurotrophin- and activity-dependent synaptic plasticity.
- 2015 – Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology Emeritus, U. C. Berkeley
- 2014 – Director, CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology
- 2005 – 2015 Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology, U.C. Berkeley
- 2002 – 2007 Head, Division of Neurobiology, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley
- 2000 – 2005 Professor of Neurobiology, Class of 1933 Chair, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley
- 1999 – Director, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai
- 1996 – 2000 Stephen W. Kuffler Professor in Neurobiology, University of California at San Diego.
- 1988 – 1995 Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Columbia University.
- 1985 – 1988 Research Professor, Section of Molecular Neurobiology, Yale University Medical School
- 1983 – 1985 Professor, Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California at Irvine
- 1979 – 1983 Associate Professor, Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California at Irvine
- 1976 – 1979 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California at Irvine.
- 1974 – 1976 Postdoctoral Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, and Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University.
Awards & Honors
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Advanced Studies, HKUST
- 2014 Founding Member, Hong Kong Academy of Science.
- 2014 Honorary Doctorate in Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
- 2011 Foreign Member, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
- 2010 Qiu-shi Distinguished Scientist Award, Hong Kong.
- 2009 Member, US National Academy of Sciences.
- 2005 Peoples Republic of China International Science & Technology Cooperation Award.
- 2003 Docteur Honoris Causa, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.
- 2002 Ray Wu Society Award.
- 2001 Ameritec Prize.
- 2001 Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science.
- 2000 Academician, Academia Sinica. Taiwan .
- 1998 Javitz Neuroscience Investigator Award of NIH.