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Research Areas

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Our Research / Research Areas
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Janelia scientists currently specialize in these primary neuroscience and imaging research areas:
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Research Areas
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Janelia scientists currently specialize in these primary neuroscience and imaging research areas:
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Behavioral & Systems Neuroscience
Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience
Chemical & Molecular Tool Development
Evolution & Genetics
Instrumentation & Computational Tool Development
Neuronal Cell Biology
Optical Physics & Imaging
Structural Biology & Biochemistry
Theory & Computational Neuroscience

 

Behavioral & Systems Neuroscience

Our brains enable us to perceive our surroundings, decide how to act, and execute our plans by controlling our movements. Behaviors are directed by innate programs and by internal models based on past experience, and they are under the influence of motivational states. The goal of the behavioral and systems neuroscience community at Janelia is to understand the neural mechanisms underlying these interconnected aspects of behavior. A unifying research theme across labs is behaviorally relevant computation at the level of identified cell types and neural circuits. This motivates our focus on genetic model organisms – flies, zebra fish, rats, and mice.

As a group, we probe and perturb neural activity during behavior across scales ranging from individual neurites to complete populations of identified cell types. Our experiments are fueled by technology development at Janelia in the areas of advanced imaging, protein sensors of neural activity, electrophysiology, and large-scale efforts in circuit reconstruction. Experimentalists closely collaborate with theorists from the growing Neural Theory and Computation group.

Ahrens Lab Baker Lab Bock Lab Branson Lab Card Lab Cardona Lab Dickson Lab Druckmann Lab Dudman Lab Freeman Lab Hantman Lab Heberlein Lab Hermundstad Lab Huston Lab Jayaraman Lab Karpova Lab Keleman Lab Keller Lab Koyama Lab Lee (Albert) Lab Leonardo Lab Magee Lab Pastalkova Lab Reiser Lab Rubin Lab Stern Lab Sternson Lab Svoboda Lab Truman Lab Turner Lab Zlatic Lab GENIE Fly Descending Interneuron

 

Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience

A major goal of research at Janelia is to elucidate the relationship between neural circuits and behavior. Unlike many organs in the body, the brain is composed of a bewildering number of diverse cell types. The basic information processing unit of the nervous system - the neuron - can be divided into hundreds of cell types that are defined by particular constellations of expressed genes and morphological features. Together these features of a neuron type are thought to determine the set of inputs a neuron receives, the downstream targets of the neuron and how neurons operate on their inputs to produce an output. In addition, the particular molecules expressed by each type of neuron determine their sensitivity to neuromodulation, capacity for plasticity, and susceptibility to disease.

As a collaborative effort, our labs and project teams seek to elucidate how the unique morphology and molecular composition of neuronal cell types contribute to the function of neural circuits.

Ahrens Lab Baker Lab Card Lab Cardona Lab Dudman Lab Hantman Lab Heberlein Lab Jayaraman Lab Ji Lab Keleman Lab Koyama Lab Lavis Lab Lee (Albert) Lab Lee (Tzumin) Lab Liu Lab Looger Lab Magee Lab Rubin Lab Schreiter Lab Spruston Lab Sternson Lab Truman Lab Zlatic Lab FlyLight GENIE

 

Chemical & Molecular Tool Development

Scientific discovery depends on having the right tool to measure or manipulate biological systems. At Janelia, we fashion molecular tools using protein engineering and organic chemistry. We value utility over novelty, the goal being to develop reagents that can enable new biological experiments. Examples include genetically encoded indicators based on fluorescent proteins (GCaMP, iGluSNFR) and bright fluorophores for live-cell single-molecule imaging (Janelia Fluor dyes).

Ahrens Lab Karpova Lab Lavis Lab Lee (Tzumin) Lab Looger Lab Rubin Lab Schreiter Lab Sternson Lab Svoboda Lab Tjian Lab FlyLight GENIE Transcription Imaging

 

Evolution and Genetics

Evolutionary biology is the study of the history and origins of biological diversity. Differences between species result from genetic changes, but little is known about how genome evolution generates biological diversity. At Janelia, evolutionary biologists aim to reveal how genetic variation alters molecular and cell biology to generate novel patterns of morphology and behavior. Ultimately, the goal is to reveal not only how biology works, but also how it can be changed.

Baker Lab Rubin Lab Stern Lab Truman Lab Transcription Imaging

 

Instrumentation & Computational Tool Development

Janelia offers a unique environment for the collaborative development of new tools for generating and analyzing novel biological data sets. Individual labs with complementary skills frequently form ad hoc collaborations to pursue a new idea or solve a pressing problem. Substantial on-campus resources are available to support these collaborations and also to provide infrastructure for longer-term, larger-scale endeavors.

For example, the Instrumentation Design & Fabrication is a state-of-the-art facility, including automated CNC milling machines; 3D printers; and electrical, mechanical, systems, and optical engineering services. Scientific Computing Systems offers professionalized software development services across a broad range of technology platforms and scales and manages large-scale distributed data storage systems and an in-house cluster for computationally expensive processing. The Applied Physics and Instrumentation Group brings deep physics and engineering expertise to bear on method development goals of broad interest to scientists at Janelia and beyond. The overall result is a research ecosystem where the evolution of new tools unfolds with exceptional speed and scale.

Bock Lab Branson Lab Cardona Lab Dudman Lab Freeman Lab Grigorieff Lab Harris Lab (APIG) Hess Lab Jayaraman Lab Ji Lab Karpova Lab Keller Lab Lee (Albert) Lab Leonardo Lab Pastalkova Lab Saalfeld Lab Svoboda Lab Turaga Lab FlyEM FlyLight GENIE Fly Descending Interneuron Transcription Imaging

 

Neuronal Cell Biology

Neuronal cell biology probes the functional and structural nuances of brain cells. In contrast to other approaches to neurobiology that analyze neural circuits, neuronal cell biology focuses on the operations of neurons on a subcellular level. At Janelia, neuronal cell biologists investigate fundamental cellular processes, like organelles dynamics, cell metabolism and the biochemical events underlying neuronal plasticity, within the broader context of what drives cell-to-cell communication in the brain. We work closely with Janelia’s imaging and neurobiology experts to better understand how the internal components of neurons help propagate synapses and support circuitry.

Liu Lab LIppincott-Schwartz LAB

 

Optical Physics and Imaging

Optical microscopy has been the workhorse for studies of structure and function at the cellular level and below for hundreds of years. A number of labs at Janelia emphasize collaboration between scientists and engineers across disciplines,  extending microscopy capabilities  in ways that we hope can be readily adopted by biologists at Janelia and elsewhere.

Our work includes the development and use of new ways to label tissues at the molecular level, new techniques in optical and electron microscopy, powerful electronics to collect terabytes of data, and computer algorithms that can reveal complex patterns and relationships.  Ultimately, we seek to advance spatial and temporal resolution, noninvasive imaging, and multicellular and deep tissue imaging.

Betzig Lab Dudman Lab Grigorieff Lab Harris Lab (APIG) Hess Lab Ji Lab Keller Lab Lavis Lab Lee (Albert) Lab Liu Lab Reiser Lab Svoboda Lab Tjian Lab Zlatic Lab FlyLight Transcription Imaging

 

Structural Biology & Biochemistry

A number of labs at Janelia develop structural biology methods and biochemical techniques. These include facilities for protein expression, purification, and crystallization; imaging technologies such as cryo-electron microscopy; NMR and x-ray crystallography; and computational design of protein sensors and analysis.

Cryo-electron microscopy (CryoEM) is a major effort in structural biology at Janelia. We use our electron microscopes in both imaging and diffraction modes to obtain structural information of biological material of interest. From such data, we calculate three-dimensional structures of molecules and assemblies to the highest possible resolution, to learn about their functions and mechanisms. Our goal is to develop new techniques and to extend existing technologies to expand the scope and capabilities of Cryo-EM to enable new and exciting research avenues.

Gonen Lab Grigorieff Lab Hess Lab Liu Lab Looger Lab Schreiter Lab Tjian Lab FlyEM GENIE Transcription Imaging

 

Theory and Computational Neuroscience

Our mission is to uncover the underlying principles of how cellular, synaptic, and network properties contribute to the dynamics of neural circuits, impact their information processing capabilities, and ultimately shape an animal’s behavior. Our approach is to develop and use a range of theoretical and computational methods to extract scientific meaning and understanding from the large, complex data sets collected in experimental neuroscience.
 
Advances in neuroscience at Janelia and elsewhere are revolutionizing our ability to record and perturb the structure and dynamics of neural circuits during simple and complex behavior. In many cases, we expect to have a complete wiring diagram of the relevant circuits, systematic experimental access to genetically identified neuron types, and functional recordings from large neuronal populations. This opportunity opens new frontiers to develop and test detailed, quantitative models that both stem from and lead to a deep understanding of the operation of these circuits.

Ahrens Lab Branson Lab Cardona Lab Druckmann Lab Freeman Lab Hermundstad Lab Jayaraman Lab Karpova Lab Leonardo Lab Pastalkova Lab Reiser Lab Romani Lab Spruston Lab Svoboda Lab Turaga Lab Turner Lab FlyEM Fly Descending Interneuron