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Our goal is to find simple sets of rules that can explain the organization of neuronal circuits in a broad range of systems.
To this end, we focus on general developmental programs that have persisted over evolution and explore their links to the functional organization of the brain by examining the contributions of developmentally specified neuronal types to circuits and behavior.
We use larval zebrafish as they provide a unique opportunity to observe how neuronal circuits are assembled and function in vivo throughout the nervous system using optical, genetic and electrophysiological techniques in a vertebrate brain.
Our approach is to study how neuron types defined by their developmental origins are integrated into sensory-motor circuits and to examine their computational roles at the cellular, synaptic and circuit levels.
In previous work, we found a developmentally driven global structural and functional organization in hindbrain based on timing of neurogenesis and transcription factor domains, and examined how this organization is utilized in fast and slow locomotor circuits. We have started to explore if similar or other developmentally driven functional patterns may be present in other brain regions by looking at adaptive behaviors such as adaptive motor control, a behavior that relies on multiple brain regions including the cerebellum and inferior olive. We work closely with several groups within Janelia, especially the labs of Misha Ahrens, Philipp Keller and Loren Looger. We primarily use in vivo multiple patch-clamp recordings in combination with imaging and manipulation of population activity in the transgenic lines marking specific cell types. We will also develop new techniques that fully exploit the optical accessibility of zebrafish brain.