We are interested in studying how the brain encodes cognition at the brain-wide level. Sensory integration, perception, memory and learning are just several examples of the cognitive functions that we aim to understand. In the lab we take a mesoscale approach in which we aim to simultaneously image as many brain areas as possible as mice perform complex behavioral tasks. Complementing the mesoscale approach, we use multi-area two-photon microscopy, optogenetics and labeling techniques to dissect the relevant neuronal sub-populations mediating different cognitive functions. Our goal is to obtain a cognitive brain-wide map where relevant information flows through specific processing streams based on demand.
An example study is finding the cortical location of short-term memory. To address this question, we trained mice on a memory task and simultaneously imaged the whole dorsal cortex. We found very surprising results in which short-term memory was located at very different locations based on the internal strategy of the mouse (See Figure). Thus, cognitive processing is flexible and dynamic requiring us to use wide-field and flexible approaches in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding.
Figure legend: A) Mice were trained on a whisker dependent go/no-go task with a short-term memory (STM) component, while imaging the whole dorsal cortex and monitoring body movements. B) Body movement vector in two example Hit trials, one active and the other passive during the sensation period. C) STM maps in a single active or passive trial, showing a dissociation of frontal M2 and posterior P respectively.
Our research interests further include:
- Imaging deep structures (e.g. thalamus, hippocampus and striatum) using multiple optical fibers
- Using a state-of-the-art multi-area two-photon microscope to simultaneously image single cells from multiple cortical areas
- Labeling neurons based on their output projections to understand information flow from area to area
- Using optogenetics to specifically silence a certain sub-population during behavior
- Training mice on multiple cognitive tasks
- Imaging different neuronal subtypes, such as inhibitory neurons, or neurons in different layers