We’re recruiting!

Join us! We are currently recruiting talented graduate students and postdocs in a couple of different areas described below. Please contact Prof. Stanley at garrett.stanley@bme.gatech.edu if you are interested!

The Stanley laboratory focuses on the dynamics and control of complex neural circuits, particularly applied to “reading and writing” in sensory pathways. Our experimental approaches include multi-site, multi-electrode recording, optical voltage imaging, behavior, and closed-loop feedback control. Our computational approaches include linear and nonlinear dynamical systems, information theory, observer analysis, signal detection and discrimination, control theory, and machine learning. Our long-term goal is to provide surrogate control for circuits involved in sensory signaling and perception, for normal function and for pathways injured through trauma or disease.  Trainees in the lab blend experimental and computational work, and become part of an exciting team that provides support for scientific and professional development. We are seeking doctoral students for two primary projects funded by the NIH BRAIN Initiative involving “Closed Loop Optogenetic Control of Sensory Perception” and “Population Dynamics Across Spatial and Temporal Scales Through Machine Learning”.

Michael Bolus succesfully defends his PhD thesis!

Congratulations on a great defense, Michael! We’re sad to see you on your way out but you absolutely deserve all 3 letters behind your name!

Michael’s thesis is called “Closed-Loop Optogenetic Control And Thalamic State”. He used engineering approaches to feedback control and state estimation to tackle the problem of controlling neuronal firing activity in vivo , with the goal of developing a set of methods that are general enough that they may be applied to manipulation of other types of neuronal activity or even animal behavior. Specifically, he applied closed-loop optogenetic control (CLOC) to manipulate the thalamus, a deep brain region that serves as a central gateway for conducting sensory information to the cerebral cortex. Given the importance of brain state in health and disease, he investigated the effects of optogenetic control on the state of the thalamus and its implications for sensory response properties in the somatosensory thalamocortical pathway.

Way to go, Michael!

Stanley Lab Demonstrates How Our Brain Controls Our Muscles at Scott Elementary Science and Technology Festival

As part of The Kids Interested In Technology, Engineering, and Science (KITES) festival, members of the Stanley Lab visited Scott Elementary to teach several classes of students about neuroscience and muscle physiology. The demonstration, organized by lab member Audrey Sederberg, involved using a Backyard Brains EMG Kit and custom-built software to demonstrate the measurable electrical activity associated with muscle movement and student-lead experimental design to test questions about these signals. Lab members also discussed their paths into neuroscience research with students and emphasized the importance of life-long learning.

(left to right) Adam Willats, Pete Borden, and Mia Lu examine muscle neuron action potentials at Scott Elementary
(left to right) Adam Willats, Pete Borden, and Mia Lu examine muscle neuron action potentials at Scott Elementary
Scott Elementary students practice quantitative reasoning and experiment desing skills by plotting recorded electrical signals from muscles when lifting different weights

 

New Publication – Primary tactile thalamus spiking reflects cognitive signals

Abstract: Little is known about whether information transfer at primary sensory thalamic nuclei is modified by behavioral context. Here we studied the influence of previous decisions/rewards on current choices and preceding spike responses of ventro-posterior medial thalamus (VPm, the primary sensory thalamus in the rat whisker-related tactile system). We trained head-fixed rats to detect a ramp-like deflection of one whisker interspersed within ongoing white noise stimulation. Using generative modeling of behavior, we identify two task-related variables that are predictive of actual decisions. The first reflects task engagement on a local scale (‘trial history’- defined as the decisions and outcomes of a small number of past trials), while the other captures behavioral dynamics on a global scale (‘satiation’- slow dynamics of the response pattern along an entire session). While satiation brought about a slow drift from Go to NoGo decisions during the session, trial history was related to local (trial-by-trial) patterning of Go and NoGo decisions. A second model that related the same predictors first to VPm spike responses, and from there to decisions, indicated that spiking, in contrast to behavior, is sensitive to trial history but relatively insensitive to satiation. Trial history influences VPM spike rates and regularity such that a history of Go decisions would predict fewer noise-driven spikes (but more regular ones), and more ramp-driven spikes. Neuronal activity in VPm, thus, is sensitive to local behavioral history, and may play an important role in higher order cognitive signaling.

Significance statement: It is an important question for perceptual and brain functions to find out whether cognitive signals modulate the sensory signal stream and if so, where in the brain this happens. This study provides evidence that decision and reward history can already be reflected in the ascending sensory pathway, on the level of first order sensory thalamus. Cognitive signals are relayed very selectively such that only local trial history (spanning a few trials) but not global history (spanning an entire session) are reflected.

C. WaiblingerC.J. WhitmireA. SederbergG.B. StanleyC. Schwarz