The complexity of our behavior depends not only on the staggering number of neurons in the brain, but also on the precise identity of these neurons and the specific connections that they form. A simple reflex response, a complex mental process, and the cognitive decline accompanying dementia are all associated with the generation (or dysfunction) of elaborate spatial and temporal patterns of electrical activity.
A vital step in understanding the functional principles of neural circuits is to directly observe the activity of local circuit elements with high temporal and spatial resolution. Two-photon microscopy is increasingly recognized as a crucial tool for these functional investigations; providing insight into how neural circuits encode information and transfer signals throughout various brain regions. My research group utilizes advanced in vivo two-photon microscopy in behaving animals navigating in a sensory-rich virtual reality environment in combination with neuroanatomical techniques to investigate the cell-type specific microcircuitry of the cerebral cortex and subcortical projecting pathways. Using these techniques, we aim to determine underlying processes of sensory perception and sensorimotor integration in both health and neurodegenerative disease states.