The focus of our work in this laboratory is to increase understanding about mechanisms of formation and the role of spatio-temporal patterns emerging in the brain during the information processing. This is done using both, experimental as well as theoretical approaches.
We employ optical imaging systems (CCD camera and/or photodiode array) to monitor activity of large cell populations at the same time. Dependent on the experimental design we can monitor spatially averaged population response of many cells or activity of many separate neurons.
It is hypothesized that synchronized activity of many cells, which is often seen as periodic oscillations, plays an important role in information processing in the brain. In one of our projects we are using voltage sensitive dyes and 464-element photodiode array, in conjunction with electrode recordings to monitor odor evoked activity of large cell populations as well as single cells in turtle olfactory bulb. Specifically, we are interested in understanding spatio-temporal properties of oscillations appearing during and after odor presentation.
In other project we monitor interaction between neurons grown in culture. Because of the relative simplicity of the system it is much easier to closely monitor cell-cell interactions as well as perturb the system through electrical stimulation or pharmacological means. Thus, the culture can be used as testbed for simplified theoretical models of dynamical interactions in coupled systems. This in turn can yield information about dynamics of neural activity under different conditions that can be later used to better understand large scale activity of brain circuits.
The experimental work is done in close connection with theoretical and numerical studies. Results of experimental studies of odor evoked oscillations in olfactory bulb will be used to construct biologically realistic model, that in turn may yield predictions that can be later confirmed. On the other hand, dynamical properties of simplified models of interacting coupled nonlinear elements can be compared with macroscopic properties of cultured systems. Here the emphasis is put on understanding how changes in slow variables (neuromodulation) effect the neural response and thus information processing on a local level.