Neurons form various interconnected circuits to perform different functions. The task of circuit neuroscience is to decipher these neural circuits – to document their cellular components, to study how these components interact with each other to give rise to a specific function, and ultimately, to understand how a specific behavior arises through the interplay of various neural circuits.
The main focus of our research is to understand the mechanisms of neural processing in the mammalian visual system, starting from the retina. The retina is an attractive place to study neural circuits: It is the sole interface between the visual world and the brain; it is the most accessible part of the central nervous system; it not only converts visual information into electrical signal, but also performs sophisticated processing of visual information. We use a combination of molecular genetics, electrophysiological and computational approaches to study the neural circuits in the retina.
Functions of the Retinal Ganglion Cells
Different types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) serve as parallel output channels of the retina, with each type conveying a complete but uniquely processed visual image to the brain. There are more than 20 types of RGCs in the mouse retina. To understand the workings of the retina, first we need to understand what information each type of RGCs conveys to the brain.
For each type of RGCs, a specific set of retinal interneurons form a circuit to implement the necessary computations required for its function. To fully grasp the mechanisms that produce the response of a specific RGC type, we need to identify the interneurons that form the corresponding retinal circuit and study their response properties.
Beyond the Retina
In addition to studying the functions of the retinal circuits, we would also like to understand how the outputs of these retinal circuits are processed by the brain. With the ability to manipulate the activities of individual RGC types, we will be able to examine how different RGC inputs are processed and combined in various brain circuits, and study the behavioral consequences resulting from such manipulations.