Schwarz Group

“Functional Neuroconnectomics group” general interests

My group is interested in the structural identification and functional characterization of neuronal networks in the mammalian brain.

The brain contains billions of neurons that are highly organized within complex functional networks. These networks orderly process diverse incoming information, subsequently resulting in adequate behavioral responses. In general, the exact neuronal wiring diagram within and between functional neuronal network units at the level of the synapse is still enigmatic. Thus, a key to understand how neuronal information is orderly processed to allow execution of appropriate behaviors is to exactly map and characterize the underlying neuronal circuits that allow continuous information flow within this “neuronal jungle” at subcellular resolution.

We are establishing novel recombinant rabies virus (RABV) tools to acquire detailed insight into the relationship between circuit architecture and physiological function.  Towards this goal we are developing cellular and sub-cellular resolution three- dimensional analysis of RABV-labeled neuronal networks in large brain samples via light-sheet fluorescence microscopy. This allows us to chart the exact distribution of select interconnected neuronal ensembles and also their modes of connectivity using novel automated segmentation and cell detection algorithms. To modulate the activity of specific identified circuit components we are utilizing adeno-associated virus-mediated (rAAV) stereotaxic delivery of optogenetic tools. In addition we are establishing suitable behavioral paradigms to test the physiological relevance resulting from these select circuit interrogations.

Specifically we are focusing on the functional characterization of neuronal circuits orchestrating olfactory driven behaviors as well as the circuit alterations associated with epileptic seizures.