We are recruiting PhDs, postdocs and staff starting fall 2020.
Possible projects (but by no means all possible projects – please get in touch!):
Pathway-specific modulation of thalamocortical transmission by behavioral and sensory context in freely behaving mice
Cortical neuronal activity is prominently modulated by context, active behaviour, and learning. Stimulus anticipation, movement, location in space, heading, attention, reward, and experience-dependent plasticity all prominently modulate the activity of neurons across the cortex far beyond classical sensory receptive field properties. However, very recently also the visual thalamus, commonly thought to be a faithful relay of visual information, has been shown to prominently encode information about complex behavioural context and to undergo learning-related changes. This renders it unclear how much of context-sensitive cortical activity is inherited from thalamus and how much is the result of genuine cortical computation.
So far, however, research on contextual modulations in both cortex and thalamus was largely limited to head-fixed preparations and, accordingly, to coarse and impoverished readouts of low-dimensional behaviour. It therefore has remained unclear to which degree rich and complex self-motion (e.g. 3d vestibular activity, head-movement, posture, running speed), spatial heading and location, as well as learning and attention modify thalamocortical activity.
In our group we establish and further develop technology to record the activity of cellular and sub-cellular neuronal structures during unrestrained behaviour using miniaturized two-photon microscopy and chronic Ca2+ imaging. The goal of the proposed project is to follow the activity of individual thalamocortical axons and their target neurons in different projection zones of visual cortex in freely moving mice in a densely (i.e. 3d) quantified “augmented reality” visually foraging task. This should allow us to study the emergence of pathway-specific modulation of thalamocortical transmission by behavioural and sensory context during active behaviour with so far unprecedented resolution.