Contributions of cortical microcircuit properties to information processing and coding in the olfactory system.
We are constantly processing sensory information. Although it may seem that we are passive participants in the process, we can volitionally change our behavior to improve how sensory information is relayed to the brain. For instance, we can make eye movements to specific points in visual scenes, turn our heads toward sounds and run our fingers over surfaces. These changes in sensory sampling can profoundly impact the perception of specific stimulus features. I am interested in how respiratory behavior, such as transitioning from passive breathing to active sniffing, influences cortical processing and ultimately odor perception in the olfactory system. My research focuses on how the spatial-temporal properties of cortical microcircuits shape neural responses to olfactory bulb inputs arriving at timescales that are dictated by different respiratory rhythms. In the laboratory, studies are conducted using slice preparations that allow direct access to piriform cortical circuitry as well as the cellular and synaptic properties that underlie cortical responses. A number of techniques are employed to investigate single cell, small network, and broad population activity, including simultaneous multi-electrode patch clamping, dynamic clamp and calcium imaging. A key aspect of my research is to combine experimental and computational techniques to design behaviorally relevant stimulation protocols as well as incorporate experimental results in mathematical models of cortical function. This bridges the gap between in vitro and in vivo studies and allows predictions about how cellular, synaptic and circuit mechanisms influence sensory processing at a systems level.
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