Mission: The goals of our research are to understand the principles and mechanisms that guide the assembly of neural circuits and to decipher the way they process information.
Approach: We currently concentrate on the retina and its central targets. The retina lines the back of the eye and extracts visual information from the stream of photons focused by optical elements in the front of the eye. The retina transmits visual information to numerous targets in the brain via the spike trains of approximately 20 retinal ganglion cell types. We try to understand what spike trains of different ganglion cell types tell the brain about the visual world, how the brain uses this information to guide various behaviors, how responses of specific ganglion cell types arise in presynaptic circuits and how these circuits assemble during development.
Techniques: We combine imaging, electrophysiology and molecular biology to address our questions.
- We use genetic tools - stable and transient - to selectively label and modify specific types of neurons and subcellular structures.
- We try to develop and deploy novel biomolecular sensors that allow us to directly observe neural signals and cell biology in intact circuits.
- We exploit laser scanning 2-photon and confocal microscopy to reconstruct circuits and live image synaptogenesis.
- We simultaneously record spikes from many retinal ganglion cells (i.e. the retinal output) on planar arrays of 252 electrodes and present artificial and naturalistic visual stimuli (i.e. input to the retina) to describe the input-output transformation of the retinal circuitry.
- We combine patch-clamp recordings and 2-photon imaging to track the processing of visual signals among successive neurons of the retinal circuitry and reveal synaptic and dendritic mechanisms that perform specific sensory computations.