Our laboratory focuses on information processing in the brain, so that we may better understand the way in which neural circuits enable us to sense, move, make decisions, etc. and control these functions through engineered technologies. We specifically target the thalamocortical circuit, which is a highly complex and important circuit that connects our cognitive function to the outside world. Our experimental approaches include multi-site, multi-electrode recording, optical voltage imaging, behavior, and optogenetic stimulation. Our computational approaches include linear and nonlinear model estimation, information theory, control theory, machine learning, observer analysis, and signal detection and discrimination. Our long-term goal is to provide surrogate control for circuits involved in sensorimotor signaling, for normal function, and for pathways injured through trauma or disease.
READING THE NEURAL CODE. One clear litmus test as to whether we truly understand the brain is whether we can tap into the activity of the neurons and make clear predictions about what is going on in the outside world or what is about to go on through the actions of the organism. We refer to this as reading the neural code. Upon observing a pattern of activity in the brain, we seek a dictionary, so that we may, for example, interpret a pattern in the visual pathway as representing a tree or a dog, or a pattern of activation in the motor pathway as representing eye or hand movements.
WRITING THE NEURAL CODE. Beyond reading the neural code, an even better litmus test as to whether we understand the principles of neural coding is whether we can imprint the circuit with any code we desire and induce measurable effects on perception, movement, cognition, etc.: to write the neural code. Can we artificially introduce patterns of activity in the brain that shape the way that information is propagated along the various pathways? Can we be made to see, hear, or feel something that is not experienced naturally through our peripheral sensory organs? Can we shape perception, cognition, and learning? Can we fix signaling that has been damaged due to trauma or disease, and can we augment normal function?