Mu-ming Poo is interested in activity-induced changes in the structure and function of synaptic connections, and their role in the cognitive functions of the brain.
He has made seminal contributions to the discovery of the synaptic potentiation effect of
neurotrophins and to the characterization of spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), in which the temporal order of pre- and postsynaptic spiking is critical in determining whether long-term potentiation or long-term depression could be induced at the synapse. Brain disorders often involve deficient synaptic function and plasticity, and physiological and physical stimulation approaches are widely used for promoting functional recovery of neural circuits. Poo’s work offers insights into the timing of stimulation in these rehabilitation treatments. In recent years, he has become interested in the neural circuit basis of higher cognitive functions that are known to be more prominent in primates, such as empathy, self-awareness and language. One approach to understanding their neural substrates is to introduce human-specific genes into non- human primates and dissect the corresponding changes in the neural circuits and cognitive behaviours. With the rapid development of efficient genetic manipulation methods in non-human primates, this approach is now within the horizon of neurobiological research.
Gruber Neuroscience Prize, 2016
Foreign Member, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2011
China International Science & Technology Cooperation Award, 2005
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2009
Ameritec Prize for Paralysis Research, 2001
Chang, L. et al. "Spontaneous expression of mirror self-recognition in monkeys after learning precise visual-proprioceptive association for mirror images." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017).
Ganguly, K., and M-m Poo. "Activity-dependent neural plasticity from bench to bedside." Neuron 30 (2013): 729–41.
Poo, M-m. “Neurotrophins as synaptic modulators." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2 (2001): 24–32.
Bi, Q., and M-m Poo. "Synaptic modifications in cultured hippocampal neurons: dependence on spike timing, synaptic strength, and postsynaptic cell type." Journal of Neuroscience 18 (1998): 10464–10472.
Lohof, A., N. Ip, and M-m Poo. "Potentiation of developing neuromuscular synapses by the neurotrophins NT-3 and BDNF." Nature 363 (1993): 350–53.