In every waking moment, a ceaseless stream of inputs impinges upon our senses. And somehow the brain nearly instantly selects, interprets, and decides to act upon this sensory information.
How does the brain accomplish this remarkable feat?
To answer this question we measure bioelectrical activity flowing inside the brain while it actively receives and processes sensory events in the external world.
By eavesdropping on the internal dialogue of the brain, we hope to decipher its electrical language and uncover how it transforms sensory stimuli into thoughts—and thoughts into behavioral actions. As we unravel the normal flow of electrical activity in the brain, we also hope to provide insights for the distorted electrical activity that underlies many neurological disorders.
We record and interpret electrical activity in the visual system.
The visual system provides an excellent model for understanding how the brain processes and represents external information. This is because we can precisely control in both space and time what the eyes (and the brain) see, while simultaneously measuring the electrical responses in the visual pathways of the brain. This allows us to quantitatively relate the brain’s electrical responses to well-defined sensory events in real-time.
We do all of this by monitoring neural activity in mice while they detect and act upon sensory stimuli.
Sensory processing depends upon coordination of excitatory and inhibitory electrical signals generated by specific types of neurons. These neurons form circuits in the mouse brain, and share many similarities with those of humans. By studying transgenic mice with advanced optical and electrical technologies, we are able to precisely identify, record, and interpret activity from well-defined groups of excitatory and inhibitory neurons, localized in particular brain structures. This approach enables us to both turn on and turn off specific types of neurons in specific circuits in specific brain areas — and then instantly observe the effects on downstream neural activity and visual behavior.
Our research provides a tractable way to understand how internal brain activity creates perception of the external world.
Our lab strives to reveal insights into the inner workings of the brain in real-time and with unprecedented resolution, providing new ways for understanding how the brain accomplishes its feats of information processing and sensorimotor integration.