How cells differentiate and come together to form functional connections are fundamental questions in modern neuroscience. Greg Bashaw uses molecular and genetic approaches to investigate how guidance receptors, expressed on the surface of navigating axons, transmit their signals to generate specific axonal trajectories at the fly midline. Jonathan Raper studies mechanisms of axonal guidance in the developing retinal and olfactory systems of the zebrafish. Rita Balice-Gordon studies neuron-glia signaling in synaptogenesis and activity dependent plasticity in the peripheral and central nervous system of mouse and zebrafish. Matthew Dalva investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control synapse formation in the central nervous system of mice. Wenqin Luo is defining some of the factors that determine the identities and functional properties of sensory neurons in the peripheral nervous system of mice. Marcos Frank uses electrophysiological recording and optical imaging of intrinsic cortical signals in developing animals to determine the role of sleep in synaptic plasticity and neural development.
The organization and function of neural circuits lies at the heart of our understanding of brain function. Michael Nusbaum and Dawn Blitz use anatomical and physiological techniques to understand how a small, well-defined circuit produces multiple rhythmic motor activity patterns. Brian Salzberg and Ana Lia Obaid are developing advanced imaging techniques to study synaptic transmitter release and circuit function. Michael Freed, Rob Smith and Noga Vardi study neurons in the retina, how they are connected, and how they work together to accomplish the earliest stages of visual processing. Larry Palmer and Diego Contreras explore how neurons of the visual cortex come to have their selective response properties. Diego Contreras also studies the involvement of oscillatory activity in information coding in cortical and thalamocortical networks. Minghong Ma is investigating olfactory coding and processing mechanisms in mammals. George Gerstein asks how large-scale ensembles of neurons act in concert over wide-spread areas of cerebral cortex.
Our knowledge of neural development and function can help us understand neurological diseases and inspire potential therapies for them. Rita Balice-Gordon is examining how autoimmunity against cell surface and synaptic proteins in the central nervous system affects neural circuit function and behavior. Jon Lindstrom studies the structure and function of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors with an interest in drug development and is also exploring immunosuppressive therapies for the autoimmune response to muscle nicotinic receptors underlying myasthenia gravis.
In the ultimate analysis, our goal is to explain how neural circuits generate behavior. Amita Sehgal and Xiangzhong Zheng are examining the molecular basis of behavior, especially circadian rhythms and sleep in the fly and mammalian nervous systems. Joshua Gold uses electrophysiological techniques in awake, behaving monkeys to examine the neural mechanisms responsible for forming decisions about sensory stimuli.