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Reading the Neural Code in Behaving Animals, ~1000 Neurons at a Time

Time: 15:30-17:00, June 10, 2014

Venue: McGovern Hall (Cheng Yu Tung Medical Sciences Building, Second Floor)

Reporter: Mark Schnitzer Ph.D. Professor, Stanford University

Abstract

The long-term goal of our research is to advance experimental paradigms for understanding normal cognitive and disease processes at the level of neural circuits, with emphasis on learning and memory processes. By contrast, much current research on learning and memory concentrates on levels of organization in the nervous system that are either more macroscopic (e.g. in cognitive psychology) or more microscopic (e.g. in synaptic physiology).

Our approach combines behavioral, electrophysiological, and computational methodologies with high-resolution fluorescence optical imaging that is capable of resolving individual neurons and dendrites. By necessity, we aim to advance imaging methods so that we can examine dynamics of neuronal populations or of dendritic compartments in behaving animals. En route, we are also performing experiments on circuit properties in anesthetized animals, such as the studies that use our newly invented fluorescence endoscopes for examining hippocampal cells and dendrites in vivo.

We seek explanations that span different levels of organization, from cells to entire circuits. We work with both genetic model organisms, mice and fruit flies, and human subjects. Our research emphasizes understanding the control and learning of motor behaviors, as well as the potential application of our newly developed imaging techniques to clinical use in humans.