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Carlos Portera-Cailliau, M.D., Ph.D.

Email Address:

Office Address:
710 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Reed Neurological Research Center


Fax Number:
(310) 206-9819
Work Phone Number:
(310) 206-2154
(310) 206-2359
(310) 206-4396

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Department / Division Affiliations
Associate Professor, Neurology, Neuroscience IDP, Neurobiology
Member, ACCESS Program: Dept. of Neurobiology, Brain Research Institute

Research Interest:

Imaging the assembly and plasticity of cortical circuits with two-photon microscopy

How are cortical circuits established during brain development? How do neurons recognize each other as appropriate synaptic partners? What strategies do axons use to elaborate their complex arbors? We want to answer these and other questions about cortical development using 2-photon microscopy in vivo and in brain slices together with electrophysiology and molecular biology. One goal is to investigate the mechanisms of synaptogenesis and how dendritic filopodia mature into dendritic spines, which has implications for various neuropsychiatric disorders such as fragile X syndrome. Here we use 2-photon imaging in vivo and image transgenic mice that express the green fluorescent protein (GFP). We also use in utero electroporation to transfect neural progenitors with GFP or other genes of interest. Another project is aimed at understanding how coordinated neuronal activity arises within developing networks of neurons in cortex. We use in vivo 2-photon calcium imaging to record and analyze the spatiotemporal patterns of activity within ensembles of neurons, as measured with fluorescent calcium indicator dyes such as Oregon green BAPTA-1AM and GCaMP3. We are also interested in mechanisms of plasticity and neural repair in peri-infarct cortex after stroke. Using a middle cerebral artery occlusion model of stroke in mice, we carry out chronic in vivo imaging of dendritic spines and axons over periods of months in GFP-expressing mice to find out which neuronal structures participate in functional recovery after stroke.


Dr. Portera-Cailliau was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. He obtained a B.A. in Biochemistry & Cell Biology from U.C. San Diego in 1990. He then attended the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and obtained an MD-PhD degree in 1997. His mentors were Drs. Donald Price and Lee Martin. After finishing a residency in Neurology at The Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston in 2001, Dr. Portera-Cailliau moved to Columbia University for a post-doctoral fellowship in Dr. Rafael Yuste's laboratory. His second post-doc was with Dr. Karel Svoboda in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He joined the UCLA faculty in November 2004 and has joint appointments in the Departments of Neurology and Neurobiology. He is a member of UCLA's BRI and ACCESS.


Mostany R, JA Anstey, KL Crump, B Maco, G Knott and C Portera-Cailliau Altered synaptic dynamics during normal brain aging. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33(9): 4094-4104.
Gonçalves JT, JE Anstey, P Golshani, and C Portera-Cailliau Circuit level defects in the developing neocortex of fragile X mice. Nature Neuroscience. 2013; 16: 903-909.
Johnston David G, Denizet Marie, Mostany Ricardo, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Chronic In Vivo Imaging Shows No Evidence of Dendritic Plasticity or Functional Remapping in the Contralesional Cortex after Stroke. Cerebral cortex. 2012; 74(2): .
Rousso David L, Pearson Caroline Alayne, Gaber Zachary B, Miquelajauregui Amaya, Li Shanru, Portera-Cailliau Carlos, Morrisey Edward E, Novitch Bennett G Foxp-mediated suppression of N-cadherin regulates neuroepithelial character and progenitor maintenance in the CNS. Neuron. 2012; 74(2): 314-30.
Portera-Cailliau Carlos Which comes first in fragile X syndrome, dendritic spine dysgenesis or defects in circuit plasticity?. The Neuroscientist. 2012; 18(1): 28-44.
*Cheng Adrian, *Goncalves J Tiago, Golshani Peyman, Arisaka Katsushi, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Simultaneous two-photon calcium imaging at different depths with spatiotemporal multiplexing. Nature methods. 2011; .
Martin Seanna M, O'Brien Georgeann S, Portera-Cailliau Carlos, Sagasti Alvaro Wallerian degeneration of zebrafish trigeminal axons in the skin is required for regeneration and developmental pruning. Development. 2010; 137(23): 3985-94.
Mostany Ricardo, Chowdhury Tara G, Johnston David G, Portonovo Shiva A, Carmichael S Thomas, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Local hemodynamics dictate long-term dendritic plasticity in peri-infarct cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2010; 30(42): 14116-26.
Cruz-Martín Alberto, Crespo Michelle, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Delayed stabilization of dendritic spines in fragile X mice. The Journal of Neuroscience . 2010; 30(23): 7793-803.
Chowdhury Tara G, Jimenez Jessica C, Bomar Jamee M, Cruz-Martin Alberto, Cantle Jeffrey P, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Fate of cajal-retzius neurons in the postnatal mouse neocortex. Frontiers in neuroanatomy. 2010; 4(23): 10.
Golshani Peyman, Gonçalves J Tiago, Khoshkhoo Sattar, Mostany Ricardo, Smirnakis Stelios, Portera-Cailliau Carlos Internally mediated developmental desynchronization of neocortical network activity. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2009; 29(35): 10890-9.
Holtmaat Anthony, Bonhoeffer Tobias, Chow David K, Chuckowree Jyoti, De Paola Vincenzo, Hofer Sonja B, Hübener Mark, Keck Tara, Knott Graham, Lee Wei-Chung A, Mostany Ricardo, Mrsic-Flogel Tom D, Nedivi Elly, Portera-Cailliau Carlos, Svoboda Karel, Trachtenberg Joshua T, Wilbrecht Linda Long-term, high-resolution imaging in the mouse neocortex through a chronic cranial window. Nature protocols. 2009; 4(8): 1128-44.
Mostany Ricardo, Portera-Cailliau Carlos A craniotomy surgery procedure for chronic brain imaging. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2008; 4(12): 1128-44.
Portera-Cailliau Carlos, Weimer Robby M, De Paola Vincenzo, Caroni Pico, Svoboda Karel Diverse modes of axon elaboration in the developing neocortex. PLoS Biology. 2005; 3(8): e272.