Optical Control of Neuronal Ensembles to Understand Perception, Behavior and Disease
Neuronal activity in primary visual cortex is built by neuronal ensembles defined by groups of neurons with coordinated activity. However, it was unclear if neuronal ensembles could represent visual percepts that could have a functional role in visually guided behaviors. We investigated if the precise activation of neuronal ensembles with two-photon optogenetics in layer 2/3 of primary visual cortex could modulate the behavioral performance of mice trained in a visually guided task.
We found that two-photon optogenetic activation of neurons with pattern completion capability could evoke behaviorally relevant cortical ensembles and improve behavioral performance. These experiments demonstrate a causal role of neuronal ensembles in learned behaviors and open the possibility to study the role of neuronal ensembles in different brain nuclei in normal and pathological conditions.
I am an expert in electrophysiology, nonlinear microscopy, and computational neuroscience with a solid background in electronics and engineering. I study neuronal microcircuits at the cellular and network level in normal and pathological conditions. My research focuses on understanding how the brain can produce emotions and awareness using sensory stimuli and internal states, and how changes in the functional connectivity of neural ensembles generate devastating pathological conditions. I have developed novel optical and analytical tools to identify, record and manipulate neuronal microcircuits at the population level with single cell resolution to test the function of coactive groups of neurons (ensembles) in normal and pathological brain microcircuits. Using such tools, my research work has demonstrated that it is indeed possible to create a link between population activity with single cell resolution and different brain states.