We are a group of experimental and computational neuroscientists at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. We seek to understand how the brain gives rise to the rich, complex, and flexible behavioral patterns of animals. We believe that many fundamental principles underlying brain function have yet to be imagined and discovered, residing in the interactions across spatial and temporal scales between large neural circuits and molecular processes. Our goal is to connect molecular, cellular, and circuit phenomena to computational principles underlying behavior. We use molecular techniques, microscopy, engineering, and computational approaches to analyze the contribution of specific circuits and cell types to cognitive and behavioral processes.

Our favorite model organism is the larval zebrafish. This animal has an extensive behavioral repertoire even at one week of age, can be genetically manipulated, is transparent, and its brain is small enough to fit entirely under a microscope objective. That allows us to perform whole-brain imaging and optogenetic manipulation experiments in animals swimming through virtual environments, in search of the neural basis of complex behavior.

Find out more about us and our research through the examles and selected publications below, or come talk to us!

Brain states, glia, neuromodulation, and "giving up"

What makes animal behavior so flexible? Animals can enter different behavioral states driven by their surroundings, emotions, and experiences. We seek to understand how an animal's past and present experiences trigger different brain states. We study how neuromodulatory systems, and glial cells, are crucial for turning past experience into present behavior.

Subset of previous work on the role of the serotonergic system in storing memories and setting motor vigor:
Kawashima et al., Cell 2016

Work on the role of astrocytes in evidence accumulation and behavioral state switching:
Mu et al., Cell 2019

Whole-brain imaging, optogenetics, computation

We study interactions between neurons and glia across the entire brain. We develop new technology for studying, analyzing and manipulating neural activity at the whole-brain scale. Here are some examples of our tehnical work:

Function-guided brain-wide neural perturbation:
Vladimirov et al., Nature Methods 2018

Distributed computation for analysis of large-scale data:
Freeman et al., Nature Methods 2016

Whole-brain imaging during virtual-reality behavior:
Vladimirov et al., Nature Methods 2014

Whole-brain light-sheet imaging in zebrafish:
Ahrens et al., Nature Methods 2014


Neural basis of behavior

We ask general biological questions about the neural basis of complex behavior, for example, foraging strategies:
Dunn et al., eLife 2016

and sensory-motor transformations:
Chen et al., Neuron 2018

Memory

(to come)