All-optical interrogation of neural circuits during behaviour

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Adam Packer

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Neurons in the brain process information via electrical impulses or spikes. How does the pattern of spikes drive perception or enable performance of an action? Despite substantial progress in neuroscience, these questions have yet to be answered.

I will reveal how brains work to perform computational feats. Previous research on how spikes drive behaviour has taken two complementary approaches: correlating neuronal activity with what is happening in the environment and stimulating neuronal activity while recording behavioural responses. The goal of my proposal is to bring these two approaches together. I have developed an optical approach that allows me to use light to both record and manipulate the activity of many neurons simultaneously on the level of individual spikes. I will employ this approach in the sensory cortex of a mouse performing sensory-guided tasks to manipulate neurons in a precisely targeted manner and examine the influence on behaviour to understand the ‘code’ the brain uses.

My findings may give us new insights into the workings of the neocortex and in turn spur development of new treatments for debilitating brain disorders.