We perform highly interdisciplinary research at the interface of neuroscience, developmental biology and biophysics, and develop high-speed light-sheet microscopy technology and automated approaches to computer vision to enable this research. The goal of our research is to uncover the fundamental rules governing neural development, and to systematically link development to the functional activation of circuits in the nervous system. In the long-term perspective, we would like to use these data to establish and validate a computer model of the developing nervous system and, ultimately, of the entire embryo.
To elucidate these key principles at the system level, we (1) perform live imaging of entire developing fruit fly, zebrafish and mouse embryos, focusing in particular on the developing nervous system, (2) computationally analyze the patterns of cell migration, cell division and axonal outgrowth underlying the formation of the nervous system, and (3) study the emergence of functional connectivity and patterned neural activity in the early nervous system.
Animal development is one of the most complex processes encountered in biology. In early embryonic development of vertebrates and higher invertebrates, a single cell is transformed into a fully functioning organism comprising tens of thousands of cells, which are arranged in tissues and organs able to perform the most challenging tasks. Understanding development and emergence of function at this system-wide level is one of the most fundamental goals of biology. The ability to capture and characterize the dynamic behavior and state of all cells in a developing embryo will be a central, indispensable step toward this goal. The overall objective of our research is to gain this level of experimental access in the most important animal model systems and reconstruct the formation of structure and function underlying their developmental building plans.