Research & Publications
Our laboratory is interested in understanding how neural circuits form and function to elicit appropriate behavior, and how they can be modified by experience. Orderly and specific patterns of neuronal wiring are critical to trigger coherent responses to sensory inputs. Conversely, mistakes in connectivity may lead to altered behaviors observed in disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. It is therefore essential to learn how neurons choose synaptic partners as they “wire up” the developing brain and maintain such connections throughout life. To study mechanisms of neuronal wiring, we have focused on the visual system. The success of our research will provide novel insights into the cellular basis of visual perception and will allow to generate new methods to examine neural circuitry in the normal brain and in animal models of neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Specialized Terms: Neuroscience; Development; Visual system; Neural circuits; Visual threat-triggered fear behavior; Transgenic approaches
Extensive Research Description
Our current research involves both retina (light-sensitive layer of eye) and brain targets: 1) Retina project includes investigating how retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) acquire specific morphological structure during development and how they eventually recognize distinct visual cues (e.g. color, motion). We are examining potential effects of overexpression and knock-out of candidate genes on structural development and functional specification of distinct subsets of RGCs that may lead to alteration in visual perception. 2) In parallel, we are exploring subtype-specific regeneration ability of RGC subsets after optic-nerve damage. 3) Brain project focuses on the assembly of the neural circuits mediating visual threat-triggered defensive behavior. The ultimate goal is to define molecular mechanisms that underlie development of previously unexplored visual circuits contributing to function and dysfunction of fear- related brain circuitry. Our research methodology combines mouse genetics, AAV-mediated neurocircuit analysis, bioinformatics, confocal microscopy and behavioral tests.
Anatomy; Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms; Neurobiology; Neurosciences; Ophthalmology; Vision, Ocular