Neural Codes and Maps in Whisker Somatosensory Cortex
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How do neural circuits in the brain’s cerebral cortex mediate sensation, memory, voluntary movement, and higher functions, and how does this break down in neurological disease? Our lab seeks to answer these questions by studying cortical function at the synaptic, circuit, and information processing levels. We study how cortical circuits process sensory information, adapt to experience, and store information during learning. We investigate the cellular and circuit mechanisms for brain plasticity, and the homeostatic mechanisms that maintain proper cortical function across age and experience. We study the micro-organization of sensory maps in the cortex to reveal principles of information processing and circuit design. We apply this understanding of normal brain function to develop new insights into neurological disorders, including autism and epilepsy. Approaches include synaptic physiology, 2-photon calcium imaging, in vivo circuit physiology and optogenetics, and quantitative sensory behavior. The model system is the somatosensory cortex of rodents, which is a leading system for understanding cortical neuron and circuit function and plasticity (e.g., Feldmeyer 2007, Diamond et al., 2008, Feldman 2009, Feldman 2012). Our lab is part of the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley. Our recent research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).