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Matthew Colonnese Matthew Colonnese
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Office Phone: 202-994-4596
Email: Email
Department: Pharmacology and Physiology


Dr. Colonnese has long thought the keys to understanding the function and evolution of the brain lay in its development. Dr. Colonnese recieved his BS in Anthropology-Zoology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where he studied the development of syntactical grooming chains with Dr. Kent Berridge. In graduate school he studied with Dr. Martha Constantine-Paton and became facinated by the idea that activity patterns generated internally within the developing brain help wire it up. He recieved his PhD in Neuroscience from Yale in 2001.  He completed post-doctoral studies with Dr. Alan Jasanoff (MIT) and Dr. Rustem Khazipov (INSERM, France), developing techniques for fMRI and mulit-electrode recordings in developing rodents. He started as an Assitant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology in 2011. 


The Laboratory of Systems Neural Development seeks to uncover the secret life of the developing brain. We use a rodent model of fetal brain development to discover the circuit basis of the earliest brain activities. We use advanced electrophysiological techniques including high-density multi-electrode arrays, intra-cellular recordings and imaging in vivo. We combine these technqiues with modern methods of neural control including optogenetics and chemogenetics in neonatal animals.  We hope to leverage this these techniques to understand the how particular circuits in the cortex and thalamus generate activity when connections are first forming, how they contribute to the formation of functional circuits, and how circuit changes transforms activity during maturation. Our goals are (1) to develop an atlas that matches disruptions in early brain activity in human infants to the underlying circuitry in order to make the clinical EEG diagnositic, (2) develop new technologies to increase recovery of function and regeneration in adults, (3) provide foundational understanding of how individual circuits regulate development of thalamus and cortex and how these process are disrupted by neurodevelopmental disorders. 

View Dr. Colonnese Personal Lab Website


National Eye Institute (R01-EY022730). Circuit Specializations of Developing Visual Networks. PI. 2013-2023.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01-NS106244). Thalamic Contributions to the Developing EEG. PI. 2019-2024.

Centers and Institutes

Co-director Neuroscience Program. GW Institute for Biomedical Sciences.


Berzhanskaya J, Phillips MA, Gorin A, Lai C, Shen J, Colonnese MT. (2016) Disrupted Cortical State Regulation in a Rat Model of Fragile X Syndrome. Cerebral Cortex (first published online January 5, 2016 doi:10.1093/cercor/bhv331).

Berzhanskaya J, Phillips MA, Shen J, Colonnese MT. (2016) Sensory hypo-excitability in a rat model of fetal development in Fragile X Syndrome. 2016. Scientific Reports (in press).

Pelkey KA, Barksdale E, Craig MT, Yuan X, Sukumaran M, Vargish GA, Mitchell RM, Wyeth MS, Petralia RS, Chittajallu R, Karlsson R, Cameron HA, Murata Y, Colonnese MT, Worley PF, McBain CJ. (2015) Pentraxins Coordinate Excitatory Synapse Maturation and Circuit Integration of Parvalbumin Interneurons. Neuron 85(6): 1257–1272.

Colonnese, M.T. (2014). Rapid developmental emergence of stable depolarization during wakefulness by inhibitory balancing of cortical network excitability. J Neurosci. 34(16): 5477-5485.

Chipaux M, Colonnese MT, Mauguen A, Fellous L, Mokhtari M, et al. (2013) Auditory Stimuli Mimicking Ambient Sounds Drive Temporal 'Delta-Brushes' in Premature Infants. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79028.

Colonnese MT and Khazipov R. (2012). Spontaneous activity in developing sensory circuits: Implications for resting state fMRI. Neuroimage 62(4): 2212-21. PMID: 22387472

Minleabev M, Colonnese M, Tsintsadze T, Sirota A, Khazipov R. (2011). Gamma oscillations synchronize developing thalamus and cortex. Science 334(6053): 226-9.

Phillips MA, Colonnese MT, Goldberg J, Lewis LD, Brown EN, Constantine-Paton M. (2011). A synaptic strategy for consolidation of convergent visuotopic maps. Neuron 71(4): 710-24.

Colonnese MT, Kaminska A, Minleabev M, Milh M, Lescure S, Moriette G, Chiron C, Ben-Ari Y, Khazipov R. (2010) A conserved switch in sensory processing prepares developing neocortex for vision. Neuron 67(3): 480-98.

Colonnese MT, Khazipov R. (2010) 'Slow activity transients' in infant rat visual cortex: a spreading synchronous oscillation patterned by retinal waves. J Neurosci. 30(12): 4325-37.

Colonnese MT, Phillips MA, Constantine-Paton M, Kaila K, Jasanoff A. (2008) Development of hemodynamic responses and functional connectivity in rat somatosensory cortex. Nat Neuroscience 11(1): 72-9.

Colonnese MT, Constantine-Paton M. (2006) Developmental period for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent synapse elimination correlated with visuotopic map refinement. J Comp Neurol 494(5): 738-51.

Colonnese MT, Zhao JS, Constantine-Paton M. (2005) NMDA Receptor currents suppress synapse formation on sprouting axons in vivo. J Neurosci 25(5): 1291-303.

Colonnese MT, Shi J, Constantine-Paton M. (2003) Chronic NMDA receptor blockade from birth delays the maturation of NMDA currents, but does not effect AMPA/Kainate currents. J Neurophysiol 89: 57-68.

Colonnese MT, Constantine-Paton M. (2001) Chronic NMDA receptor blockade from birth increases the sprouting capacity of ipsilateral retinocollicular axons without disrupting their early segregation. J Neurosci 21: 1557-1568.

Industry Relationships and Collaborations

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported a financial interest with the health care related companies listed below. These relations have been reported to the University and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts.

  • None