The human brain contains ~ 1011 neurons, each making >103 synapses with other neurons on average. These 1014 synaptic connections enable us to sense, think, remember, and act. How is this vast number of neurons organized into circuits to process information? How are these circuits correctly assembled during development? We use model neural circuits in the less numerically complex brains of the fruit fly (~105 neurons) and mouse (~108 neurons) and combine state-of-the-art molecular genetic and viral techniques with physiological and behavioral approaches to investigate these questions.
Over the past two decades, we have developed genetic tools to label and genetically manipulate individual or groups of neurons in flies and mice, which have facilitated our interrogation of mechanisms of neuronal morphogenesis, axon pruning, and wiring specificity of neural circuits during development. More recently, we have investigated anatomical organization and functional properties of neural circuits in adult animals.
We are currently pursuing these core interests through four related research programs:
1. Assembly of the fly olfactory circuit
2. Genetic analysis of neural development and disease in the mouse
3. Organization and function of neural circuits in the mouse
4. Development of tools to probe neural circuit assembly and function