Daniel Pederick is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D. in biosciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia, where he completed his doctoral work in the laboratory of Paul Thomas. His work focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the unique X-linked inheritance pattern of PCDH19 epilepsy.
While a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Liqun Luo at Stanford, Pederick investigated how cell surface molecules guide complex neural circuit assembly. Using a combination of viral and genetic tools, he found that the inverse expression of two cell surface molecules in the mouse hippocampus mediates the reciprocal repulsion of parallel neural connections to ensure proper assembly. He is now investigating how neural circuits in the central auditory system are assembled and plans to assess how these mechanisms are disrupted in mouse models of autism with auditory processing deficits.
Project: Investigating tonotopy in autism
Improper processing of auditory information is a primary characteristic of autism. It can present as difficulties in differentiating between tones, listening in noisy environments and poor dichotic listening abilities, which can lead to delays in the development of language and communication skills. Proper representation of sound frequencies is critical for differentiating between tones and processing complex speech sounds, and it has been shown to be altered in individuals with autism. Within the auditory system, different sound frequencies are spatially represented across tonotopic maps, from low to high frequencies. It remains unclear how tonotopic connections form during development and how disruption contributes to auditory processing deficits observed in individuals with autism.
In this project, we will characterize the mechanisms that guide tonotopic circuit assembly and investigate how these processes are disrupted in mouse models of autism. We have established experimental approaches that will identify circuit, molecular, and functional changes in the tonotopic map. The findings from this project will provide insight into the molecular mechanisms that underlie tonotopic defects in autism mouse models and will help us to understand how disruption of tonotopic circuit formation and function contribute to altered auditory information processing in individuals with autism.